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Segregation in Schools and Neighborhoods: Consequences and Dynamics 2017

On June 8-9, SESL staff members Daniel Alexandrov and Ksenia Tenisheva attended conference “Segregation in Schools and Neighborhoods: Consequences and Dynamics” organized by the International Network of Analytical Sociology (INAS). This conference was taking place in Oslo (Norway).

In our field of research, analytical sociology is perhaps the most modern approach that combines clear requirements both to the theoretical framework of research and to its methods. INAS unites scientists not just because their research areas are related, but rather because of their general outlook at the substance of social processes and on the ways of studying them. In order to fit into the framework of analytical sociology, the research should consider the general context, operate with the middle-level theory, elaborate all the involved concepts down to the detail, and demonstrate a clear connection between the theory and methodology of the research. Analytical sociology attracts shrewd researchers who work with the most advanced methods and operate the social theory at the highest level. The fact that two of our presentations at once were accepted for the INAS program has proved once again the high level of studies conducted in our Laboratory.

The conference lasted only two days, but it was packed with most interesting presentations from eminent and outstanding sociology scholars. The event was opened by the keynote from Jon Elster, one of the founders of analytical sociology and the author of our favorite textbook “Explaining social behavior”. For a better idea of his presentation on the role of enthusiasm, emotions and rational reasoning in the history of the American Revolution and in the making of the American constitution, you can read his preprint.

On the first day of the conference, Daniel Alexandrov gave his presentation “Segregation in Secondary Schools in St. Petersburg". Petersburg “, in which he summarized the results of a long-term study of interschool and intraschool segregation in schools in St. Petersburg. On the second day, Ksenia Tenisheva talked about the mechanisms that parents use for selecting a school for their children, also based on the data collected in schools of St. Petersburg. Her presentation was titled “Parental school choice in urban context in Russia.” On the whole, at least a half of all presentations at the conference was directly related to the study areas of our Laboratory: migration, school choice, students academic performance and segregation. This created perfect environment for joint discussions of our projects and for getting constructive criticism and useful advice. The variety of modern methods, mostly various kinds of simulations, and non-trivial approach to solving problems (for example, using data of the mobile operators for assessing city districts in terms of their well-being and segregation) certainly are inspiring and thought-provoking. For example, here are some of the most interesting studies that were presented at the conference. Elizabeth Roberto (Princeton University) spoke about the results of developing a new index for measuring the level of segregation and (ethnic) diversity. Elizabeth Bruch (Michigan) has compared the behavior of men and women at dating websites with high and low levels of competition. Filiz Garip and Linda Zhao have clearly demonstrated, at what level of cohesion the migration may result in recovery and revitalization of the community. Katarina Katz has shown that, for the Swedish teenagers, the risk of dropping out of school is higher if they live in a neighborhood with a large number of unemployed but highly educated people.

Also, the city of Oslo was an excellent choice for discussing the problems of segregation: the only river divides the city into two parts, which have very different of ethnic composition and level of well-being. The participants of the conference had an opportunity to look at it with their own eyes, as they moved from a prosperous district of Ullevål, where the university is located, to a fairly closely located district Grünerløkka, where they had a conference reception. Oslo is also known for its program of renovating the port district, which is a very striking example of gentrification. Previously, this district attracted marginal segments of the city population, but currently it’s an expensive district with many banks and restaurants, which squeezes out lower segments of the population. We expect that, starting from this year, our Laboratory shall participating in the INAS conferences on a regular basis, and that we shall be able to develop interesting theoretical and practical projects together with our colleagues working in the area of analytical sociology.