"It is science, and not religion, which has taught men that things are complex and difficult to understand."

By Emile Durkheim

The Cohabitation Effect in China

Yongjun Zhang. 2017. “Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution in Postreform China.” Journal of Marriage and Family 79(5):1435–49. doi:10.1111/jomf.12419

Impact Factor: 2.238

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2016: 9/43 (Family Studies); 17/143 (Sociology)


The author uses cohabitation data from the 2010 Chinese Family Panel Studies to analyze the association of premarital cohabitation with subsequent divorce of first marriage. After balancing selection factors that influence premarital cohabitation through propensity score matching, the author uses Cox proportional hazards models to examine the selection, causation, and diffusion perspectives on the relationship between premarital cohabitation and marital dissolution. The results show that premarital cohabitation is positively associated with divorce for those married in the early-reform period (1980–1994) when cohabitation was uncommon. However, this relationship disappears for those married in the late-reform period (1995–2010) when cohabitation became more prevalent. The findings suggest variation in the link between premarital cohabitation and divorce across different marriage cohorts and provide strong evidence for the diffusion perspective in postreform China. Supplemental sensitivity analyses support the robustness of the conclusion.



The Consequences of Social Movements

Yongjun Zhang. "Media Coverage of Social Movements in Global Society." In Progress.


Media attention of social movements is usually seen as a critical success for social movement organizations’ and activists’ mobilization. Past research has thoroughly examined how media and social movements as an interacting system jointly influence protest coverage in democratic countries. Yet, little is known about how macro political environments shape the media-movement interacting system in global society. Drawing on over 35, 000 web news media with over 100 million articles across 150 countries, this study assesses how media, social movements, and macro political environments jointly determine protest coverage and tones across the world. Findings indicate that macro political opportunities and constraints mediate the impact of media-movement interacting system on protest attention. This article closes by discussing the implication for extending political mediation model into global society.

Racial Segregation in the United States

Jeremy Fiel and Yongjun Zhang. 2017. "Three Dimensions of Change in School Segregation: A Grade-Period-Cohort Analysis." Demography. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-017-0632-9

Impact Factor: 2.802

The flagship journal of the Population Association of America.


This study uses the first age-period-cohort (APC) analysis of segregation to examine changes in public school segregation from 1999-2000 to 2013-2014. APC analyses disentangle distinct sources of change in segregation, and they account for grade effects that could distort temporal trends if grade distributions change over time. Findings indicate that grade effects are substantial, drastically reducing segregation at the transition to middle school and further at the transition to high school. This does not substantially distort recent trends, however, because grade distributions were sufficiently stable. Black-white segregation was stagnant overall, while Hispanic-white segregation declined modestly. In both cases, declines across periods were offset by increases across cohorts. Further analyses reveal variation in these trends across metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, regions, and areas with different histories of desegregation policy.


Terrorism in the Global Context

Andrew Davis and Yongjun Zhang. "Terrorism and Civil Society: Organizational Opportunity and Repression in Cross-National Perspective, 1970-2006." Invitation to Revise and Resubmit.


In this paper we examine the connection between a nation’s level of civil society openness and the number domestic terrorist attacks across 135 countries from 1970 to 2006. Building upon the political process model in social movement theory, we argue that nations provide institutional environments that either foster or hinder social movement activity. Following the contentious politics approach (McAdam et al. 1996; 2001; Tarrow 1998; Beck 2008), we conceptualize terrorist organizations as engaged in high risk movement activity and sensitive to organizational opportunities that make contention more likely. Testing our models using panel fixed-effects negative binomial regression models, we find support for our hypothesis that a nation’s level of civil society openness should lead to higher counts of domestic terrorist attacks. Going further, we also find specific effects by regime-type, with much of the main effect between civil society openness and the count of domestic terrorist attacks being driven by autocratic nations with relatively open civil societies. This work connects social movement theory with the cross-disciplinary industry working to understand terrorism, offering an explanation for attacks rooted in the organizational opportunities paradigm, a useful tool for future work on social movements in cross-national perspective, as well as further work on terrorist organizations.

*Note: Equal co-authorship.

Alexander Kinney, Andrew Davis, and Yongjun Zhang. "Theming for Terror: Organizational Adornment in Terrorist Propaganda." Invitation to Revise and Resubmit.


Research has shown that adornment strategies such as “theming” are a prominent and patterned phenomena in institutional organizational life. Scholars have yet to investigate if and how extra-institutional organizations such as terrorist organizations similarly utilize theming as a strategy to signal to their primary consumer base: recruits. To remedy this, we utilize a variety of computational techniques built from Latent Dirichlet Analysis (LDA) topic modeling procedures to analyze a corpus of propaganda aimed at Western audiences. Drawing on the markets-as-politics paradigm we show how Al-Qaeda and ISIS maintain similar strategies of signaling global illegitimacy while cultivating distinct brands of terrorism in an effort to differentiate themselves from one another. We argue that in the inherently illegitimate terrorist environment, it is the terrorist consumer not the state who acts as the arbiter of legitimacy. This finding challenges a fundamental assumption of markets-as-politics and problematizes prior research asserting that strategies utilized by these organizations to convey meaning are fundamentally the same.