Research Findings

How Undergraduate Internships Lead to Early Career Inequality and Misconceptions about College Majors


April 15, 2021

College graduates are struggling to find middle-class jobs at an historic rate. As recently as 2018, a third of college graduates were underemployed, and the overall unemployment rate for young people jumped to a high of 28% during the COVID pandemic, discouraging recent graduates who believed they would easily enter the labor market after graduation.

Participating in at least one undergraduate internship is a common strategy for college students to “maximize” their employment chances after graduation. At any given time there are over a million interns in the U.S. economy of which roughly a half are unpaid. Yet, we know relatively little about which internships are good for students and which are just short-term work where employers take advantage of students by assigning them limited tasks with little or no remuneration.

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Research Findings

On the destructive forces of the capitalist mode of production: Or, how to counter corporate violence with degrowth

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April 8, 2021

Corporations are the cogwheels in the machinery that makes up capitalism. By dragging peoples and environments into its mode of production, corporations satisfy their profit-hunger and disastrous growth-ambitions.

In our recent article we conceptualize the destructive forces of the capitalist mode of production as corporate violence. Corporate violence helps to showcase how organizations are inflicting violence as part of their routine operations, while pointing to the intricacies of how violence is structurally organized.

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Research Findings

Many Disadvantaged Asian Americans are Completing Bachelor’s and Graduate Degrees


April 1, 2021

Asian Americans have been averaging very high levels of education since the mid-20th century, with a much higher likelihood of completing college degrees than their similarly aged peers from other racial/ethnic groups. 

recent qualitative study conducted by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou argues that Asian Americans not only average high levels of education, but Asian Americans’ educational chances are also less hampered by having parents with low education levels than other racial/ethnic groups. 

This argument flies against traditional sociological arguments about education. Foundational social mobility theory contends that parents’ education is one of the strongest predictors of their children’s chances of obtaining a college degree or more. For example, first generation college students are much less likely to attend and complete college than their peers whose parents have a college degree. 

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Research Findings

Strong value organizations and their challenges

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March 25, 2021

The importance of values

The evidence is clear. People want to work for companies that are making a difference in the world, and this has important implications for the need for strong corporate values to attract and retain the best talent. At the same time, companies with strong values often find it challenging to change, because the values they are built on can get in the way of their ability to respond to changes in the environment. 

Generation Y (born in the 80s and 90s) and Generation Z (born in the late 90s and early 2000s) want to make the world a better place, and believe that business methods are the best way to do so at scale. They see business leaders having a deeper impact on society than religious or political leaders, and they desire organizations to shift from focusing narrowly on generating profit to balancing social and environmental concerns and making a more positive impact.

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Research Findings

Infectious Ideas: Why do Radical Innovations Take Root?


March 18, 2021

Living in the midst of a pandemic, we have all become familiar with the idea of contagion. An epidemic spreads through exposure to an infectious agent, like a novel virus. In a basic contagion model, the spread of a disease is a function of contact with the agent and its degree of infectiousness. Epidemiologists often model the risk of contagion as a function of contact (or frequency or level of contact) with the infected and the agent’s virulence.

When it comes to triggering radical institutional change, do ideas work the same way?

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Research Findings

Why the passion paradigm works


March 11, 2021

“You have to follow your heart and know that you can do whatever you want in life,” Nels, a free-lance graphic designer tells me.  “I’m trying to convince my kids that you don’t have to pick a job… You can create a life.”

Nels loves his work, but he is open to change. When I ask him what his professional goals are, he answers, “I don’t know what’s next. I could end up in another completely different industry. Whatever I end up in next, if there’s a next, it’s going to be with the same passion.” 

Nels believes that he has power over his career path, freedom in an undetermined future, and clarity in prioritizing work that he loves. These beliefs represent an ideology of work that I’ve coined the passion paradigm.

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Research Findings

Despite positive racial attitudes, racial discrimination is prevalent among millennials

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March 4, 2021

Millennials are the most educated and the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation in the U.S. This has led to ongoing hope and hype that Millennials are the turning-point generation in racial/ethnic relations. 

Many have long believed that Millennials will grow up, spread racial tolerance and pro-diversity views in workplaces, and begin work to fix a deeply broken system. Perhaps the post-racial revolution is upon us?

While some survey research on Millennials’ racial attitudes and beliefs supports this notion, our recently published research in Socius presents a less optimistic view.

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Research Findings

What is the “Value-Added” of teachers? How test scores perpetuate false understandings of the work of teachers and of the process of learning


February 25, 2021

As a middle school math teacher, I taught at a school serving a wealthy student body and my students had incredibly high test scores. But I had also taught at a school where the majority of students were eligible for free or reduced lunch and my students had incredibly low test scores. In the low-poverty school, I was seemingly a very effective teacher—yet, in the high-poverty school, I was seemingly a very low-quality teacher.

This experience led me to a career as a sociologist focusing on inequities in education. In my most recent study, I investigated the use of test scores to assess the effectiveness of teachers.

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Research Findings

Patient Satisfaction is Not Medical Quality


February 23, 2021

Over the last decade, consumer-driven health care elevated customer satisfaction to be the central mission of hospital care. Satisfaction surveys and hotel-style amenities rose hand-in-hand to become central features of U.S. hospitals. This trend has done more harm than good. It focuses everyone’s attention on front-stage aspects of health care over what matters most to patients: excellent medical treatment.

As I discovered in a recent study published in Social Forces with my colleague Xinxiang Chen, satisfaction scores are driven by room and board hospitality, rather than medical quality or patient survival rates. Moreover, when hospitals face greater competition from other facilities, there is higher patient satisfaction, but lower medical quality.

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Research Findings

How computerization has opened up new opportunities for enhancing the earnings of the already privileged


February 18, 2021

Most of the research on rising economic inequality focuses on technological skill, productivity, and market forces. But of course, that is only part of the story. Just as important is workers’ bargaining power. The weakening of labor unions, which has left workers with less collective power to fight for their own interests, is a major story behind rising economic inequality in recent decades.

In a recent article, I find that rising wages for highly rewarded occupations has very little to do with technological advances, in and of itself, and a lot to do with the politics of production (broadly define) and power.

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