Dalton Conley

Dalton Conley is university professor and dean for the social sciences at New York University. He is author of Elsewhere U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety.

Recent Articles

The New Together

When is a creature deemed alive enough for people to experience an ethical dilemma if it is distressed?

The original virtual pet Tamagotch (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)

One important role of a professional sociologist is to be the skeptic who grumbles, "Wait a minute, here. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." For example, it took Berkeley sociologist Claude Fischer to point out that families' geographic mobility in the United States has been steadily declining over the last 100 years, contrary to the nearly universal belief that Americans now move about more than ever. Every so often, however, we sociologists do get to stand on a soapbox and shout out, "Look here! There is something new under the sun!" Fertility rates that have decreased so much as to cause population decline in many rich countries, if not for immigration, are one such soapbox moment.

Don't Blame the Billionaires

It's time for liberals to worry less about inequality.

When I was growing up, my mother used to sing me the old adage, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer," before hastening to add, "And it's all Ronald Reagan's fault." Because I had campaigned for Jimmy Carter as a wide-eyed 11-year-old, this was one of the few maternal claims that I did not dispute in my adolescence.

Behind Fortune's Smile

Malcolm Gladwell's latest mixes some insights from social science with some compelling anecdotes. Unfortunately, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

Outliers: The Story of Success By Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company, 309 pages, $27.99

Three and a half decades ago, in their book Inequality, the sociologist Christopher Jencks and his co-authors claimed that where we end up in life is largely a function of luck or chance. At best, they wrote, statistical models predict about half of the variation in schooling and probably less in income. Further, Jencks and colleagues argued, we suffer from attribution bias in that we ascribe successes to personal qualities and failures to bad luck or outside forces, especially when those successes and failures are our own.

Dream On

American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to
End Welfare

By Jason DeParle • Viking • PAGES • $25.95