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BGSU Sociology research is regularly featured in the national media, and our faculty provide leading media outlets with expert insights on current events. Our faculty and students are frequently recognized for their exceptional research, teaching, and service contributions to the field. Check this page regularly to learn about recent accolades and media appearances featuring BGSU Sociology. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wallet Hub speaks with Professor Karen Guzzo on financial strain of having a child
Photo courtesy of Wallet Hub

What advice does sociologist Karen Guzzo have about the financial considerations to be made before having a child? Just ask the expert...

First time parents are often unaware of how difficult and expensive it can be to find affordable childcare. Childcare is, by far, the biggest expense introduced by having a child, and it’s one that doesn’t go away for a very, very long time (even school-age children often need before or after school care). Infant child care can easily run $1,000 a month.

---Karen Benjamin Guzzo

Sociologist in Action

Associate Professor Steve Demuth volunteers with the non-profit organization Civil Rights Corp to highlight judicial unconstitutionality around the country. Read more about Steve in ASA's new "Scholar Action Network."

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Associate Professor Steve Demuth
Divorce rates are up for Americans over 50. But splitting up after that age may be particularly hazardous to your emotional and financial health, far worse than doing so at younger ages. (Jamie Grill / Getty Images)
Divorce over 50. "It's a grim picture," said Susan Brown
According to a study by I-Fen Lin, Susan L. Brown, Matthew R. Wright, and Anna M. Hammersmith, people who have gone through a gray divorce report higher levels of depression than those whose spouses died.  
Separating After 50: The Psychological And Economic Effects of ‘Gray Divorce’
Business Insider reports on ways Millennials are changing marriage
Millennials are marrying later in life — and breaking other marriage conventions. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

BGSU study published in Journal of Marriage and Family found that living together "has become part of the pathway toward marriage."  

Karen Guzzo addresses low birth rates for women in their teens and 20s
"Young Americans still want to have children, but they don’t feel stable enough to have them yet," said Karen Benjamin Guzzo, who studies families at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
"The U.S. could do more to encourage childbearing with parental leave, preschool expansion and child care subsidies and other policies aimed at helping young adults struggling with student loan debt and housing costs," Guzzo said.
This Feb. 16, 2017 file photo shows newborn babies in the nursery of a postpartum recovery center in upstate New York. According to a government report released Wednesday, May 15, 2019, U.S. birth rates reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
This Feb. 16, 2017 file photo shows newborn babies in the nursery of a postpartum recovery center in upstate New York. According to a government report released Wednesday, May 15, 2019, U.S. birth rates reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Congratulations to Kei Nomaguchi and Karen Guzzo!
Professors Kei Nomaguchi (l) and Karen Guzzo
Professors Kei Nomaguchi (l) and Karen Guzzo

The BGSU Board of Trustees awarded Kei Nomaguchi and Karen Guzzo Professorship during their monthly board meeting.

“Great universities are defined by great faculty,” said Dr. Joe Whitehead Jr., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Providing opportunities for our faculty to advance their careers is critical to our success. Teaching, research and creative activities drive public good.”

The majority of Professor Nomaguchi’s research concerns disparities in parental and child well-being based on social stati such as gender, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and family structure as well as variations across life stages.

Trained as a family demographer and sociologist, Professor Guzzo examines what is considered "nontraditional" family behaviors. She pays close attention to variation by gender, race/ethnicity/nativity, and socioeconomic status to better understand the "diverging destinies" of today's families.
 

What's your number?

Professor Kei Nomaguchi is asked by The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker, "What is the optimal number of children?"

“Having just one child [makes] various aspects of adults’ lives—how time, money, emotion, and mind are used and how new social networks are formed—child-centered,” says Kei Nomaguchi, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University. “If you want to enjoy adult-centered life, love expensive leisure activities, cherish intimate relationships with your partner, and both you and your partner want to devote your time to your careers, zero kids would be the ultimate.”
Bryan Caplan is an economist and a dad who has thought a lot about the joys and stresses of being a parent. When I asked him whether there is an ideal number of children to have, from the perspective of parents’ well-being, he gave a perfectly sensible response: “I’m tempted to start with the evasive economist answer of ‘Well, there’s an optimal number given your preferences.’”  Families are changing. Find out how—every week.  Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and receive a selection of stories on the modern family in all its different forms. Email Address (required)  Thanks for signing up!  When I pressed him, he was willing to play along: “If you have a typical level of American enjoyment of children and you’re willing to actually adjust your parenting to the evidence on what matters, then I’ll say the right answer is four.”  Four does happen to be the number of children Caplan himself has. But he has a rationale for why that number might apply more generally. His interpretation of the research on parenting, which he outlines in his 2011 book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, is that many of the time- and money-intensive things that parents do in hopes of helping their children succeed—loading them up with extracurriculars, sending them to private school—don’t actually contribute much to their future earnings or happiness.  Read: Parenting like an economist is a lot less stressful  In other words, many parents make parenting unnecessarily dreadful, so maybe, Caplan suggests, they should revisit their child-rearing approach and then, if they can afford to, consider having more kids, because kids can be fun and fulfilling. No sophisticated math brought him to the number four. “It’s just based upon my sense of how much people intrinsically like kids compared to how much needless suffering they’re doing,” he said. Caplan even suspects that more than four would be optimal for him. More Stories      Dr. Spock smiling at many babies     There Used to Be Consensus on How to Raise Kids     Paula Fass     A man and woman lead two small children away from each other by the hand.     How to Talk to an Anti-vax Relative     Ashley Fetters     Parenting Like an Economist Is a Lot Less Stressful     Joe Pinsker     Grieving the Future I Imagined for My Daughter     Julie Kim  The prompt I gave to Caplan, of course, has no single correct response. There are multiple, sometimes conflicting, ways of evaluating the question of how many kids is best for one family: from the perspective of parents, of children, and of society. These various lines of inquiry warrant a tour of what’s known, and what isn’t, about how the size of a family shapes the lives of its members.  * * *  A handful of studies have tried to pinpoint a number of children that maximizes parents’ happiness. One study from the mid-2000s indicated that a second child or a third didn’t make parents happier. “If you want to maximize your subjective well-being, you should stop at one child,” the study’s author told Psychology Today. A more recent study, from Europe, found that two was the magic number; having more children didn’t bring parents more joy.  In the United States, nearly half of adults consider two to be the ideal number of children, according to Gallup polls, with three as the next most popular option, preferred by 26 percent. Two is the favorite across Europe, too.  Ashley Larsen Gibby, a Ph.D. student in sociology and demography at Penn State, notes that these numbers come with some disclaimers. “While a lot of [the] evidence points to two children being optimal, I would be hesitant to make that claim or generalize it past Western populations,” she wrote to me in an email. “Having the ‘normative’ number of children is likely met with more support both socially and institutionally. Therefore, perhaps two is optimal in places where two is considered the norm. However, if the norm changed, I think the answer to your question would change as well.”  The two-child ideal is a major departure from half a century ago: In 1957, only 20 percent of Americans said the ideal family meant two or fewer children, while 71 percent said it meant three or more. The economy seems to have played some role in this shift. Steven Mintz, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood, says that the ideal during the Baby Boom was in the neighborhood of three, four, or five children. “That number plummeted as the cost of rearing children rose and as more women entered the workforce and felt a growing sense of frustration about being reduced to childbearing machines,” he said.  The costs of raising children are not just financial. “As a parent who prizes his own mental and physical health,” says Robert Crosnoe, a sociology professor who is also at the University of Texas at Austin, “I had to stop at two, because this new style of intensive parenting that people feel they have to follow these days really wears one out.” (He added: “I am glad, however, that my parents did not think this way, as I am the third of three.”)  Read: The way American parents think about chores is bizarre  At the same time, having only one kid means parents miss out on the opportunity to have at least one boy and one girl—an arrangement they have tended to prefer for half a century, if not longer. (Couples are generally more likely to stop having children once they have one of each.) Maybe this is another reason two is such a popular number—though in the long run, one researcher found that having all girls or all boys doesn’t meaningfully affect the happiness of mothers who wanted at least one of each. (This researcher didn’t look at dads’ preferences.)  But plenty of people want more or fewer than two kids. In general, the experts I consulted agreed that the optimal number of children is specific to each family’s desires and constraints. “When a couple feels like they have more interest in kids; more energy for kids; maybe more support, like grandparents in the area; and a decent income, then having a large family can be the best option for them,” says Brad Wilcox, the director of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project. “And when a couple has fewer resources, either emotional, social, or financial, then having a smaller family would be best for them.”  What happens when there’s a gap between parents’ desires and reality? Per the General Social Survey, in 2018, 40 percent of American women ages 43 to 52 had had fewer children than what they considered ideal. “Part of the story here is that women are having children later in life, compared to much of human history, and they’re getting married later in life as well,” Wilcox says. “So those two things mean that at the end of the day, a fair number of women end up having fewer kids than they would like to, or they end up having no kids when they hoped to have children.”  Though the root causes can differ, this mismatch between hope and actuality is seen worldwide, and appears to make women measurably less happy. So while people’s ideal family size may vary—and is highly individualized—they’ll probably be happiest if they hit their target, whatever it may be.  * * *  Perhaps the most meaningful difference isn’t a matter of going from one to two children, or two to three, but from zero to one—from nonparent to parent.  “Having just one child [makes] various aspects of adults’ lives—how time, money, emotion, and mind are used and how new social networks are formed—child-centered,” says Kei Nomaguchi, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University. “If you want to enjoy adult-centered life, love expensive leisure activities, cherish intimate relationships with your partner, and both you and your partner want to devote your time to your careers, zero kids would be the ultimate.”  Mothers, of course, stand to lose more than fathers when they have kids in their household. Having children is more stressful for women than it is for men, and mothers suffer professionally after having children in a way that fathers don’t (though parents’ happiness does seem to vary based on their country’s policies about paid leave and child care). In these regards, too, zero is good.  Read: How well-intentioned white families can perpetuate racism  Whether the optimal number of children is greater than zero is a question many researchers have tried to address, and the sum of their work points to a range of variables that seem to matter.  One recent paper suggested that becoming a parent does indeed make people happier, as long as they can afford it. And a 2014 review of existing research, whose authors were skeptical of “overgeneralizations that most parents are miserable or that most parents are joyful,” detected other broad patterns: Being a parent tends to be a less positive experience for mothers and people who are young, single, or have young children. And it tends to be more positive for fathers and people who are married or who became parents later in life.  What’s optimal, then, depends on age, life stage, and family makeup—in other words, things that are subject to change. While being the parent of a young child may not seem to maximize happiness, parenthood may be more enjoyable years down the line.  Indeed, Bryan Caplan believes that when people think about having children, they tend to dwell on the early years of parenting—the stress and the sleep deprivation—but undervalue what family life will be like when their children are, say, 25 or 50. His advice to those who suspect they might be unhappy without grandchildren someday: “Well, there’s something you can do right now in order to reduce the risk of that, which is just have more kids.”  * * *  Parents may decide that a certain number of children is going to maximize their happiness, but what about the happiness of the children themselves? Is there an optimal number of siblings to have?  Generally speaking, as much as brothers and sisters bicker, relationships between siblings tend to be positive ones. In fact, there’s evidence that having siblings improves young children’s social skills, and that good relationships between adult siblings in older age are tied to better health. (One study even found a correlation between having siblings and a reduced risk of getting a divorce—the idea being that growing up with siblings might give people social toolkits that they can use later in life.)  There is, however, at least one less salutary outcome: The more siblings one has, the less education one is likely to get. Researchers have for decades discussed whether “resource dilution” might be at play—the idea that when parents have to divvy up their resources among more children, each child gets less. Under this framework, going from having zero siblings to having one would be the most damaging, from a child’s perspective—his or her claim to the household’s resources shrinks by half.  But this theory doesn’t really hold up, not least because children with one sibling tend to go further in school than only children. “Resource dilution is attractive because it’s intuitive and parsimonious—it explains a lot with a simple explanation—but it’s probably too simple,” says Douglas Downey, a sociologist at Ohio State University. “Many parental resources are probably not finite in the way the theory describes.”  A small example: Parents can read books to two children at once—this doesn’t “dilute” their limited time. A larger one: Instead of splitting up a fixed pile of cash, parents might start saving differently if they know they’re going to pay two kids’ college tuitions instead of one’s. “They put a bigger proportion of their money toward kids’ education and less toward new golf clubs,” Downey explains.  And if parents are enmeshed in a strong community that helps them raise their kids, they have more resources than just their own to rely on. In a 2016 study, Downey and two other researchers found that the negative correlation between “sibship size” and educational outcomes was three times as strong in Protestant families as in Mormon ones, which often take a more communal approach to raising children. “When child development is shared more broadly with nonparents, sibship size matters less,” Downey and his fellow researchers wrote.  The gender mix of siblings can be a factor too. “In places with strong preferences for sons over daughters, there is some evidence that girls with older sisters are the worst off in terms of parental investments (e.g. school fees, medical care, maybe even food/nutrition),” Sarah Hayford, a colleague of Downey’s at Ohio State, noted in an email.  Siblings, then, can be a mixed bag. It’s probably folly to try to game out just how many kids will give each one the best life. But Caplan has a simple theory for how to optimize children’s happiness: “The most important thing in your life is your parents deciding to have you in the first place. Each kid is another person that gets to be alive and will be very likely to be glad to be alive.”  * * *  Thinking about what’s best for any individual household is more subjective and nuanced than what number of kids would be best for the broader society. When it comes to ensuring that a given society’s population is steady in the long run, demographers don’t just have a number (an average of 2.1 births per woman, roughly) but a name for it: “replacement-level fertility.”  Sometimes, populations deviate from this replacement-level rate in a way that stresses out demographers. “Nothing guarantees that the number of children that is good for me is also good for the society,” said Mikko Myrskylä, the executive director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Rostock, Germany.  “Very low fertility,” Myrskylä wrote in an email, “creates a situation in which over time the share of working-age population compared to the elderly population becomes small, and this may present a challenge for social arrangements such as the social security system.” Japan’s population, for instance, has been shrinking in the past decade, and its growing elderly population and low fertility rate (1.43 births per woman) have its government worried about the sustainability of its workforce and social-benefits programs.  “Very high fertility,” Myrskylä continued, “in particular when mortality is low, creates a rapidly growing population, which requires expansion in the infrastructure and consumes increasingly large amounts of resources.” In Nigeria, the government has attempted to lower its high fertility rate by increasing access to contraceptives and touting the economic advantages of smaller family units.  But families don’t base their desire for children on a society’s optimal number. In many countries in central and West Africa—such as Senegal, Mali, and Cameroon—the desired family size for many young women is four to six children, says John Casterline, a demographer at Ohio State who has conducted research in the region. This number has stayed relatively high even as people have attained higher average levels of education—a shift that, in Asia and Latin America, for instance, is usually accompanied by a shrinking of the hoped-for size of families.  It’s not entirely clear why women’s expectations in these parts of the world haven’t changed as those of women in other regions have. One guess, Casterline says, has to do with how family is conceptualized. “A lot of things in life are perceived as a collective endeavor of a large extended kin group, for the sharing of resources and labor, so that diminishes the personal cost of having a kid,” he told me. “It’s diffused among a larger group of people.” For example, maybe one child is particularly sharp, so his relatives save up to send him to college—“a sort of corporate collective effort,” as Casterline put it—and hope that he gets a high-paying urban job and can help support them.  Another possibility: “There was always the issue of protecting yourself against mortality,” Casterline said, referring to the possibility that a child might not make it into adulthood. He said that child mortality rates in many parts of the world have declined a lot in the past few decades. But they’re still high, and the impulse to hedge against them might linger. “‘How many babies do I need to have now if I’d like to have three adult children in 30 years?’” says Jenny Trinitapoli of the University of Chicago, describing the thought process. “That depends on the mortality rates.”  But these explanations aren’t definitive. Some hard-to-quantify preferences also seem to be playing a role. Casterline remembered conducting surveys in Egypt a decade or so ago, and listening to Egyptians discuss the merits of having three children versus two. “There was some indifference, but there was a real feeling that it’s more of a family—it feels better—to have three children rather than two, because so much of their social life is family gatherings, and having aunts and uncles and cousins,” he says. “And if you have three kids, you get a lot more of that.”  But as the economy and makeup of a society changes, so do people’s preferences, and in that sense, the United States is a telling example. At the beginning of the 19th century, the typical married woman had seven to 10 children, but by the beginning of the 20th, that number had fallen to three. Why? “Children were no longer economic assets who could be put to work,” says Mintz, the historian of childhood.  And some aspects of society are designed to work best for families of a certain size—a standard car in America, for instance, comfortably fits four people. (Mintz notes that in the ‘50s and ‘60s, sedans could seat six, because they typically had bench seats and lacked a center console.) Hotels, too, come to mind: Once a family has more people than can fit in two double beds, it’s time to consider booking another room.  After accounting for what a given society is like, and what a given household within that society is like, one could very well determine the optimal number of children to have. But those considerations are less compelling and more clinical when compared with the joy people have when they see a child hold his baby sister for the first time; attend an enormous, rowdy family reunion; or plan a blissful getaway without having to worry about who will watch the children. Those are the moments that feel truly optimal.  We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com. Joe Pinsker is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers families and education.
C. M. Bell / Library of Congress / Katie Martin / The Atlantic
Manning speaks with The Atlantic about millennials and adultery
Wendy Manning tells The Atlantic there’s no evidence that young adults who are between the ages of 24 and 32 today are more likely to be faithful than the same age group was in 1980. The difference (sociologist Nicholas) Wolfinger is picking up on seems to be just that people over 50 are simply older and possibly have been married longer, so they’ve had more opportunities to cheat. We’d have to wait until Millennials get older before determining whether they are, truly, the faithful generation.
Balistreri awarded two-year grant

Congratulations to Associate Professor Kelly Balistreri on her grant success! Kelly was awarded a two-year grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for her project “Senior Hunger and the Food Security Infrastructure.”  

Dr. Kelly Balistreri
Lin and Brown secure R15 grant on gray divorce
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Congratulations to Professor I-Fen Lin and Distinguished Professor Susan Brown on their receipt of an NIA R15 three-year renewal grant on Gray Divorce.
ACJS awards Mowen and Boman 2018 Article of the Year!
Congratulations to Assistant Professors Tom Mowen and John Boman on receiving the 2018 Article of the Year Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) for their publication, “Assessing the Within-Person Impact of Social/Behavioral Programs, Increased Supervision, and Jail Time on Polysubstance Use During Reentry,” published in Corrections: Policy, Practice, and Research. The pair accepted the award at the annual meeting of the ACJS last week in Baltimore, MD. Way to go!
Drs. Thomas Mowen and John Boman accept 2018 Article of the Year Award
Drs. Thomas Mowen and John Boman accept 2018 Article of the Year Award
Kara Joyner named co-editor of PRPR

Congratulations to Professor Kara Joyner who is serving a three-year term as Co-Editor of Population Research and Policy Review (PRPR), the flagship journal of Southern Demographic Association (SDA). Elizabeth Woods, graduate student, is serving as managing editor.

Elizabeth Woods, Graduate Student, and Professor Kara Joyner
Elizabeth Woods (l) and Kara Joyner
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Timm wins 'People's Choice' award

Graduate student Brian Timm was awarded 'People's Choice' at the inaugural BGSU 'Three Minute Thesis' competition last Thursday. The event celebrates the exciting research conducted by master's and doctoral students. Developed by The University of Queensland, the exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills.

The competition supports the capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Congratulations, Brian!

Wendy Manning keynote speaker at Popdays 2019 conference in Milan
PAA Past President Wendy Manning and President John Casterline were the keynote speakers (in collaboration with the Population Association of America) at this year's Giornate di Studio sulla Popolazione – Popdays 2019 (13th Edition) in Milan, January 24-26. Popdays is a general scientific conference aimed at promoting the study and the discussion of population research and is one of the most important initiatives of the Italian Association for the Study of Population (Sis-AAISP).
Link to Popdays 13th edition conference website
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