Research Findings

When do women succeed in women’s jobs? It depends on the workplace!

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June 4, 2024

The paradoxical promotion advantages of men in jobs dominated by women

Management promotions come with pay raises and a voice in workplace decisions. It is well-known that men receive promotions more often than women – but men’s promotion advantages relative to their female colleagues grow with the share of women in jobs. Therefore, men ride an invisible “glass escalator” that fast-tracks them into managerial promotions, especially in jobs that employ more women.

In a recently published paper, we ask: Is the glass escalator the same in all workplaces, or does it slow in workplaces predominantly employing women?

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Research Findings

Polyoccupationalism: The unexplored world of workers’ occupational identities.

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April 10, 2024

Occupations are a key source of identity in modern social life. But what exactly do contemporary occupational identities look like? In the heyday of Western industrialization, sociologist Émile Durkheim conceived of occupations as cohesive social groupings, or “small classes,” whose rooting in the division of labor meant that they provided workers with exclusive and powerful identities – as miners, nurses, or professors. In recent decades, however, the rise of postindustrial forms of work has transformed the Durkheimian landscape. As employment becomes more contingent and labor is increasingly project-based, workers’ ties to their jobs are not as strong as they used to be. It is unclear, however, how this shift away from the industrial regime has transformed occupational identities. How do workers identify with occupations in the postindustrial era?

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Research Findings

Do criminal record questions on job applications prevent people with records from applying?

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March 18, 2024

Getting a job can be a challenge for anyone, especially in a tough economy. But for people with criminal records, the task of finding a job is particularly difficult. Experiments show that job applicants with criminal records have lower chances of getting an interview or job than those without records, and that the chances are even lower for people of color. While 8% of adult men have a felony criminal record, that number is 33% for Black men. Thus, many employers’ unwillingness to provide a second chance by hiring those with criminal records is especially impactful for Black people.

Employers often obtain criminal record information about applicants during the application process. Some ask criminal record questions on job applications or request formal criminal background checks, with a warning of a background check typically stated right on the application. Thus, when an applicant with a criminal record goes to apply for a job, they often see on the application itself that their record will become known to the employer.

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Research Findings

Are millennials worse off than baby boomers? That’s the wrong question.

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December 28, 2023

The question of whether Millennials are doing better or worse than previous generations remains a highly debated subject. Millennials are often positioned as the victims of changes in American society that have made employment and family life less stable, rendering them, according to some observers, “the first generation that is worse off than their parents”. A recent article challenged the “myth of the broke Millennial”, however, claiming that they are actually thriving.

Framing the question in this way is somewhat misleading. It suggests that there is a typical or average Millennial, who we can compare to the average Baby Boomer. Millennials are so different from one another, however, that it is not particularly meaningful to talk about the ‘average’ Millennial experience. There are some Millennials who are doing extremely well—think Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman—while others are struggling.

The Baby Boomers are similarly internally divided: those who went to university and found middle class jobs had very different experiences and life outcomes compared to those in working class occupations. Comparing generations in terms of their average economic outcomes overlooks the vast discrepancies within generations. Instead, we should ask which Millennials were better or worse off than previous generations.

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Research Findings

It takes more than a ‘body count’ to make diversity matter on corporate boards


December 21, 2023

Corporate boards shape strategy and decision-making, rendering their composition highly consequential. Such boards have been, and still are, predominantly composed of individuals from similar demographic backgrounds – notably white men. This is an issue, as homogeneity is known to lead to groupthink, and suggests that some needed talent is excluded from the board room.

Calls for diversity, notably gender diversity, grow louder, and some countries have legal targets or quotas. Corporate boards, not least in large, publicly-traded firms in the Global North where power and money concentrate, are thus in the hot seat. However, research findings are mixed when it comes to the outcomes of having more diversity on boards.

In a recent study of corporate board diversity, our starting rationale was that simply adding more ‘diverse directors’ to the mix wouldn’t necessarily translate into them having influence – and indeed, we found that increasing the ‘diversity count’ by adding women or foreign directors doesn’t inherently reshape the power dynamics in the corporate elite.

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Research Findings

White Parents Discriminate Against Schools with More Asian Students

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December 7, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic increased public attention to anti-Asian discrimination and bias in the United States. Even though media coverage of the subject has grown recently, Asian Americans have been civically and socially ostracized by white Americans throughout U.S. history. Existing research has shown that Asian Americans today face discrimination in the workplace and in a range of contemporary social settings.

In a recent study published in Sociology of Education, we find pervasive anti-Asian sentiments among white parents with different backgrounds. This bias is strong among parents with higher and lower levels of education, and among both liberal and conservative parents. The results of our study span the COVID-19 pandemic, and we found similar levels of anti-Asian biases in our experiment both before and after the pandemic began. These results demonstrate that anti-Asian bias in educational settings is not only a recent phenomenon and pre-dates the uptick in anti-Asian sentiment that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Research Findings

The Moral Ramifications of How Algorithms “See” People


November 24, 2023

Imagine that you are deciding whether to release a person on bail, grant a consumer a loan, or hire a job candidate. Now imagine your method of making this decision involves using data to algorithmically predict how people will behave—who will skip bail, default on the loan, or be a good employee. How will you know if the way you determine  outcomes is fair?

In recent years, computer scientists and others have done a lot to try to answer this question. The flourishing literature on “algorithmic fairness” offers dozens of possibilities, such as testing whether your algorithm predicts equally well for different people, comparing outcomes by race and sex, and assessing how often predictions are incorrect.

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Research Findings

Dangerous workplaces and the counterintuitive value of scars


November 9, 2023

Think of a dangerous job. One where workers experience daily risk and suffering. Where the accidental burn, cut, and blood is to be expected— maybe even mundane. Perhaps what comes to mind is a firefighter barreling into a fiery building, a meat packing plant worker who trims sides of beef, or a police officer in a foot chase with an armed suspect.

What likely did not come to mind are the folks who whipped up the plate of palak paneer you dined on last Saturday or baked the croissant you nibbled this morning: chefs, cooks, and other restaurant kitchen workers. But, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that workers at dining establishments—about 2.3 million people in the United States— experience comparatively more pain and injury than those of other professions, including the stereotypically dangerous ones I mentioned earlier (see table below).

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Research Findings

Gender Segregation in Civic Life – Women’s and Men’s Involvement in Voluntary Associations

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October 26, 2023

Many social settings are gender-segregated: At the workplace, in higher education, and in friendship cliques, women and men typically encounter peers of their own gender. This separation slows down efforts toward gender equality because women and men get access to different resources through their social networks and engage in gender-typed behaviors and activities. But much less is known about gender segregation in civic life. Voluntary associations, such as sports clubs, community associations, or leisure groups, are often viewed as places that bring communities together and equalize access to social resources. However, previous research suggests – often based on highly simplified figures – that voluntary associations are segregated along gendered lines as well: Women and men are usually involved in different types of associations and perform different voluntary work, often matching broader gender stereotypes and extending traditional patterns of labor division to community life. For example, while women pull together in school- or care-related organizations, men more often meet each other in sports clubs and local political parties. 

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Research Findings

On habit and organizing: a transactional perspective relating firms, consumers and social institutions

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October 19, 2023

The surest way to get a player to come back to the game is to make it a habit, a part of their life.”

 — A game designer and product manager

Much of consumption, which includes the acquisition, appreciation, and use of goods and services, is habitual. On any typical day, millions of people engage in various activities available on their Apple or Android smartphones, communicate with friends and family through social networks such as Twitter, and use popular streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify to entertain themselves. Reinvigorated by the rise of social media, digital platforms, and artificial intelligence, and recently jolted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recurrent and habitual transactions of individual consumers with provider firms are a mainstay of the market economy.

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