Abstract: This paper explores how denominators are used, misused, and—especially—how often they are missing, and to what effects. The paper makes three arguments. First, that denominators are essential in domains far beyond the quantitative disciplines that presently attend to them. In ethnography, in practical politics, in cultural studies, in everyday decision-making, we need to think much more about the pools of possible chances out of which emerge the events we observe. Second, denominators in the social sciences are much more intently theoretical objects than their usual treatment suggests, both in the sense that populations are not naturally bounded in the ways that many statistics imply, and in the sense that people do not merely find themselves randomly in certain populations facing certain risks, but rather participate in a variety of ways in their location. Finally, I argue that a classical demographic way of thinking about the denominator—as exposure to risk—offers an elegant way of integrating contemporary theory about uncertainty, agency, and habitus into formal quantitative research.
If you are interested in meeting with or joining the speaker for lunch, please send email to Seminars AT ccpr.ucla.edu
10:30 am – 11:00 am: Prof. Jessica Gipson
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm: Seminar
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm: Proseminar Lunch: Lei Feng, Karra Greenberg, Sara Johnsen, Lena Riess, John Sullivan, Ka Yuet
2:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Prof. Patrick Heuveline