Research Findings

Old wine in new bottles: gender and the gig economy


October 15, 2020

Luke Elliott-Negri, Kathleen Griesbach, Adam Reich and I began studying platform-based food delivery in 2018. Like many labor scholars, we were fascinated by the exploding gig economy and its impact on workers. In late 2018 and early 2019 we conducted Facebook surveys with 955 platform-based food delivery workers, followed by in-depth interviews with 55 of them. 

Our data were collected well before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked an explosion of demand for all sorts of home delivery, even as it widened pre-existing gender and class inequalities. Those developments only add to the significance of our findings. 

We did not start the project with a gender focus, but we quickly learned that working-class women dominate this sector of the gig economy. About three-fourths of our survey respondents (and a similar proportion of interviewees) were female, and mostly white. This should not have been a surprise, but for us it was, maybe because we live in New York City, which has a far longer tradition of food delivery – mostly performed by immigrant men – than the rest of the U.S.

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Research Findings

How do Right to Work laws affect economic inequality?


October 13, 2020

Right to Work laws were a centerpiece of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act that curbed many of the victories won by labor unions in the previous two decades. These laws allow for a state to prohibit union membership or the contribution of union dues as a precondition for employment at a firm.

Proponents of Right to Work argue that it removes an unjust restriction placed on worker freedom, while opponents argue that it further fragments and undermines an already weak system of labor protection for ordinary workers.

Today, 27 states with about half the US population have enacted Right to Work laws. Scholars have described Right to Work laws as some of the most consequential antilabor provisions passed in the 20th century, and many local, regional, and national social movements have been motivated to act by the prospect of a state passing or repealing these laws, as one can see with the contentious political activity surrounding Wisconsin’s passage of Right to Work in 2015 and Missouri’s repeal in 2018.

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Research Findings

Does CFO Gender affect irregularities in corporate financial statements?

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October 8, 2020

Ex-post analyses of corporate scandals often postulate a what-if scenario: Would things have been different (better) had women held the reins of those firms? Variants of this question appear in the media, political speeches, and academic research. Our recent research addresses this question by examining whether the likelihood of irregularities in corporate financial statements is lower if the firm has a female Chief Financial Officer (CFO). 

Financial statement information is critical for efficient capital allocation and investment. Misreported financial statements have harmful consequences: companies go bankrupt erasing the jobs and savings of employees; management and directors are fired, tried, and sometimes incarcerated; and confidence in business is eroded. Although financial misreporting is a popular area of multidisciplinary research, empirical inquiry is based generally on firms that are ‘caught’ engaging in fraudulent behaviors. Researchers observe detected fraud, not all fraudulent activity, generally referred to as the ‘partial observability’ problem. 

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Research Findings

Racial Pay Parity: How African Americans made government jobs good

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October 1, 2020

“Get yourself a good government job!” This familiar refrain originates in the Black community, for whom public employment offers a rare respite from the inequities of the private sector labor market. Government jobs are in fact good for many groups. The pay, status, and rewards of African-American, female, and disabled public employees are closer to that of their white, male, and non-disabled colleagues, even when accounting for public-private differences in occupation and education.  Recent attacks on public sector unions, moreover, are in part the result of prejudice against these groups.

Yet the public sector did not always protect African Americans and others. When Swedish economist and sociologist Gunnar Myrdal visited the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, he could still describe the “tenuous presence of Blacks in public employment.” This precariousness was a legacy of the Woodrow Wilson presidency which introduced segregation and discrimination into civil service hiring practices.

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Research Findings

Capitalist Restructuring and the Power of Women Textile Workers in Egypt


September 24, 2020

In a recent study, I found that, contra to expectations, women’s capacities to organize in the public sector of Misr Weaving and Spinning Company of Mahalla (an industrial city north of Cairo) were enhanced much more in the strike wave of the 2000s than the previous wave of strikes in 1980s. Women workers initiated the strikes, mobilized other workers to join, and took leadership positions. This happened in spite of the fact that the company had become more gender-segregated and the factory regime remained very despotic. By the 2000s, all 5000 women in the company (out of the total of 24,000) were segregated in clothing departments. How did women workers in despotic and segregated departments play leading roles in the strikes?

I show that changes in the textile industry and the reorganization of work gave women structural power that they utilized by developing working-class consciousness to fight for their rights as workers. As the exports of clothing grew from the 1990s and as women were segregated in those departments, they were empowered because they understood the importance of their departments to the company. These changes led to solidarities that cut across gender lines.

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Research Findings

Token women’s voices in male-dominated teams

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September 17, 2020

When there is a token female in a team of all males, does she speak up with suggestions and concerns related to the team task? And if she does, when are her ideas acted upon by the team and does this matter for team performance?

In our paper, we propose that it really depends on the leader’s gender beliefs and the nature of the task. When the team leader holds more positive beliefs about the capabilities of women, they are more likely to signal to the team that the token females’ ideas are worthy of consideration. This counteracts negative evaluations associated with tokenism and gender stereotypes, and at the same time, bolsters the likelihood her ideas will be attended to, processed, and enacted by the team. 

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Research Findings

The COIN project and rising between workplace inequalities

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September 10, 2020

Over the last few years an expanding group of social scientists, mostly sociologists, have been working under the banner of the Comparative Organizational Inequality Network (COIN). We have an intellectual center of gravity in inequality, organizations and economic sociologies, but we also include economists, management, and industrial relations scholars working at last count from sixteen countries.

Our network has been developing methods and theory to exploit the far reaching and exciting potential of linked employer-employee administrative data that is increasingly available from national governments. Sociology, since Jim Baron and Bill Bielby told us we should bring the firm back into studies of inequality, has been waiting for such rich data. In most countries we can track people within and between firms and know a lot about both people, their workplaces, and the network structure of labor market movement of people between workplaces.

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Research Findings

The Eurozone poses challenges for labour at large – and not just for the ‘South’

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September 2, 2020

The financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing sovereign debt crisis that engulfed the Eurozone were asymmetric shocks with uneven consequences. Unlike the creditor countries of the northern core, peripheral Eurozone countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece were subject to various forms of policy conditionality, mandating the implementation of deep liberalising reforms in exchange for the receipt of financial assistance from the Troika or the European Central Bank.

As a result, trade unions in the periphery suffered heavy defeats when governments implemented unprecedented liberalising reforms of labour market and welfare state institutions. The uneven impacts of the Euro crisis governance reinforced a common narrative highlighting the core-periphery cleavage between the ‘North’ and ‘South’. These divisions have resurfaced acrimoniously in the recent negotiation of the EU response to the unfolding Covid-19 crisis.

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Research Findings

Mismatched meaning making at a bottle and can redemption center


August 28, 2020

Every day — even in the midst of a global pandemic — men and women known as “canners” spend hours trawling city streets for empty bottles and cans. Many bring their containers to redemption centers, where they sell their wares for five cents apiece. In turn, redemption centers sell recyclables at a profit to beverage distribution companies, which must purchase them under local laws like New York’s Bottle Bill.

What motivates these workers? In a recently published study, I find that canners are motivated primarily by the money they make from bottle and can redemption, and by work conditions like job autonomy and the ability to work without papers.

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Research Findings

How wearing the hijab may influence labor market outcomes


August 25, 2020

On average, Muslim women work for pay less than other women around the world, but until recently, we did not know if this was also true in the United States. A study I published recently answers this question and digs into which Muslim women might be less engaged in paid work outside the home and why. I find that only visibly Muslim women, those who wear the hijab, have significantly lower employment than non-Muslim women.

Why should we care about Muslim women’s employment?

Demographers, sociologists, and economists track women’s employment, because participation in the labor force has been linked to women’s empowerment both individually and across societies. Paid work may have many downsides—especially when juggled with a disproportionate amount of care work—but in capitalist economies, it is a key component of financial independence, which has been shown to impact wellbeing. As a result, we often think of women’s employment as an indicator not just of women’s individual outcomes, but also of overall gender inequality in a society. For example, Paula England argues that the plateau in women’s entry into the labor force in the United States in the 1990s and 2010s is evidence that the gender revolution has stalled.

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