Research Findings

How inequality leads to its own legitimization


March 12, 2019

Research has demonstrated a dramatic rise of income inequality in the West. Today, across advanced capitalist countries, the top ten percent of households take home about a third of all income and own two-thirds of all wealth. 

Despite what scholars, journalists and some politicians consider a worrying trend, there is no evidence that people have grown more concerned about inequality. In fact, citizens of more unequal societies are less concerned than those in egalitarian societies. How to make sense of this paradox?

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Research Findings

Climate Change Isn’t Hurting Everyone: White Middle Class Americans Benefit from Natural Disasters

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March 7, 2019

Recently, the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Poland, the U.S. National Climate Assessment Report, and severe forest fires, hurricanes and winter storms have called attention to just how devastating climate change already is and will continue to be. Yet, what these events often fail to highlight is who benefits from this devastation. Understanding that piece of the puzzle is critical for building better policy approaches to climate change.

One of the most tangible effects of climate change in the United States is the mounting cost and frequency of high-impact natural hazards. In 2018 alone, mudslides engulfed large segments of Montecito, Hurricane Florence flooded a large swath of the Carolinas, Hurricane Michael destroyed communities along the Gulf coast, and California experienced some of the most destructive wildfires in history. These are just some of the most widely known events. Hundreds of other natural hazards caused millions more in damage and loss of life across the country.

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Research Findings

How mobility of R&D workers opens new avenues

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March 3, 2019

R&D employees moving from one employer to another is a frequent, yet controversial event. On the one hand, inventor mobility has been shown to have a positive effect on overall innovative activity. On the aggregate level, the fast development of new technologies in regional clusters such as Silicon Valley is driven by dynamic labor markets and high turnover rates of engineers, programmers, or developers. On the firm-level, learning-by-hiring is a fast and efficient way to acquire external knowledge.

From the perspective a firm that loses key employees, outbound mobility, on the other hand, creates costs of finding suitable replacements and is associated with the risk of losing not only employees but also crucial knowledge. Knowledge that potentially is employed by the hiring firm to compete in related markets. Recent media coverage has revealed a number of lawsuits caused by one firm’s R&D employees moving to a competitor in industries ranging from semiconductors and mobile phones to pharmaceuticals and autonomous-driving vehicles.

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Commentary

Panel – Reflections on “Roma” from researchers who study domestic work


February 19, 2019

Spoiler alert: plot/character details and research-based social analysis ahead.

The film Roma, written and directed by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón and chronicling a year in the life of a domestic worker and the family that employs her, was released in theaters and on Netflix in 2018. On the heels of several recent award wins (Golden Globe for Best Picture and Best Director; BAFTA for Best Film and Best Director; Directors Guild of America for Best Director), Roma is among the favorites to win big at the Oscars this month.

In addition to the critics’ adulation, Roma has inspired conversations among the public and has been strategically used by domestic worker organizations to heighten their visibility. But the voices of researchers who study domestic work in Latin America have been missing from these conversations.

As the founder and coordinator of a research network, RITHAL (Red de Investigaciones sobre el Trabajo del Hogar an América Latina – Network of Research on Domestic Work in Latin Amerca), I feel strongly that we can make valuable contributions to public discussions of the film.

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Commentary

Taboo affects and impossible motherhoods in an unequal Mexico


February 19, 2019
Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, and Daniela Demesa in “Roma.” Image: Alfonso Cuarón via imdb.com.

Getting to see the film Roma on the big screen, before it was released on Netflix, was truly an odyssey. In Monterrey, Mexico, where I live, I had to buy a ticket a week in advance.

Monterrey is home to a prominent and privileged population, who usually contract live-in domestic workers from indigenous communities, like Cleo in the film. This was the site of the ethnographic research for my book Yo trabajo en casa, published in 2017, which discusses the naturalizing of gender, class, and racial inequalities in this stigmatized occupation.

It was worth the wait: the film is beautiful and the cinematography extraordinary. The story of Cleo and a bourgeois family that lives in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, during the presidency of Echeverría (1970-1976), is narrated from the point of view of the family’s youngest child. In the final scene, this little one sleeps in Cleo’s lap, while his sister leans on the shoulder of the worker, who just saved her from drowning in the sea.

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Commentary

Romanticizing “Roma”: For whom and for what?


February 19, 2019
Yalitza Aparicio and Verónica García in “Roma.” Image: Participant Media, Netflix via imdb.com.

As people who have historically occupied second-class status, domestic workers execute their jobs in private homes where the power — and their position — is utterly in the hands of their employers.  So, much like the battle for gender equality, the real change must start inside the homes where domestic workers perform their duties, where the day-to-day occurs. 

Change won’t happen until the terms of the relationship becomes one between equals — until the one who has been inferiorized can speak with a powerful voice; be heard in her terms; narrate in equal measure.  Until then, it is the boss’s voice telling the story of the one who is bossed. 

That is how I feel about Alfonso Cuarón’s critically acclaimed “Roma.”

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Commentary

The limits of fictitious kinship: “Roma” reveals the need to recognize domestic workers’ own care rights


February 19, 2019
Image: Sean O’Flaherty (CC BY-SA 2.5) Desaturated from original

“We don’t want to be adopted by our employers. We simply want our rights.” This was one of the statements made by Mexican domestic workers’ rights activist and union leader Marcelina Bautista, following the release of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

Through its portrayal of the inner life of a 1970s middle class Mexican household, Roma provides an intimate view of the construction of a prevalent myth: that paid domestic workers, and live-in domestic workers in particular, are “like part of the family” to their employers.

The struggles of main character Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) to meet her needs to both give and receive care as a live-in domestic worker confirm what scholars refer to as the “fictitious”  or “imaginary” nature of these kinship structures. Her pregnancy introduces an element of unpaid reproductive labor that does not serve her employers’ interests. 

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Commentary

No Love in “Roma”: Maids’ Representation as a Language of Class


February 19, 2019
Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma”

Expectations were piling up around Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón’s film Roma even before its release last December. Its reception immediately highlighted the many attributes of the film elevating it as a masterpiece of Mexican cinema.

A recent dossier on the website Mediatico with contributions from academics specialized in Mexican cinema leaves no doubts about the aesthetic attributes of the film. The black-and-white images, the large format framing, and the neorealist look make the character and story of Cleo, a live-in maid based on Cuarón’s own childhood nanny Libo, resonate emotionally with the audience in a unique way.

However, it might not be the film itself that needs closer attention, but rather its quick positive reception, a kind of urgency for approval that might be more related to a cultural industry that transcends national borders, and social class anxiety anchored in ethnic/gender/race identities. The film seems to respond to these anxieties, offering a visual and emotional soothing.

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Research Findings

Does outsourcing of domestic services increase female earnings?

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February 19, 2019

Even though a vast majority of all households in wealthy countries have two wage-earners, women on average work fewer hours and at lower wages than their partners. This is commonly attributed to the fact that women perform most of the routine housework. For instance, Swedish women spend approximately 15 hours per week on domestic work compared to 10 hours for men – a moderate gender gap compared to many other European countries.

When women decrease time in domestic work, their time in paid work is generally thought to increase. This may happen, for example, with increased access to child care, increased supply of low-skilled workers which makes it cheaper to hire domestic help, or technological improvements in household appliances.

However, we don’t have detailed information about exactly how much more women work for pay when these kinds of changes occur.

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Research Findings

Women’s leadership labyrinth: Why do women build less effective networks than men?

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February 13, 2019

Women on executive boards and in other top level leadership positions are still uncommon throughout the world. Germany is no exception: by the end of June 2017, only 47 out of 677 executive board members in the German stock-listed DAX, MDAX, SDAX, and TecDAX companies were female. There is a strong rationale for changing this status quo. In addition to moral motives to include women, we have compelling evidence of the  bottom line benefits that result from having more women in leadership positions. However, in top management teams across companies and in boards of companies where no quota applies, the progress is slow. We argue that women’s underrepresentation indicates the persistent existence of the leadership labyrinth – a metaphor for the numerous challenges faced by women in their careers. Being continually confronted with challenging twists and turns requires women to work extra hard and persist in the face of difficulties on their route to success.

Studies have shown that engagement in networking is crucial for career success as it facilitates access to critical career-building resources such as advice, technical knowledge, strategic insight or emotional support. However, research has also revealed that women’s professional networks are often less powerful and effective than men’s in terms of exchanged benefits. Also the presumably distinct motivations that underlie the networking behaviors of men and women remain less well understood. With our research, we provide new insights into the discussion on women, leadership and career development, with a specific focus on networking. With such insights we contribute to greater transparency in the leadership labyrinth with ineffective networks being one detrimental hurdle for women.

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