Sanctuary ordinances for undocumented immigrants do not increase crime

February 20, 2018

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump routinely described so-called sanctuary cities as posing a threat to public safety by harboring “criminal aliens.” He also characterized immigrants—particularly unauthorized Mexican immigrants—as criminals.

This xenophobic and anti-immigrant discourse resonated with a segment of voters and helped propel Trump into the White House.

Sanctuary ordinances are passed by cities to prohibit city employees from cooperating with the enforcement of Federal immigration law. In January 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13768, which withholds certain federal grants from sanctuary jurisdictions until they fully cooperate with the Federal government in the enforcement of immigration law (see Section 9(a)). In November 2017, a Federal judge found Section 9(a) of the executive order unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction on its nationwide implementation.

According to several recent studies, there is no evidence that the implementation of sanctuary policies leads to violent crime.

Our analysis of violent crime in 107 cities contributes to this growing body of research. We found cities that adopt sanctuary ordinances experience a decrease in robberies. Moreover, among sanctuary cities, an increase in the relative concentration of unauthorized Mexican immigrants leads to a reduction in homicides. These results are contrary to the prevailing political discourse.

Trump’s political rhetoric and policy decisions raised several important questions that we addressed in our research. First, what exactly is a sanctuary policy? Second, does the implementation of such an ordinance in any way affect crime? Finally, is unauthorized immigration associated with increased crime?

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Research Findings

Not by productivity alone: Understanding gender gaps in promotion to tenure in academia

February 18, 2018

Women are underrepresented in high status positions in companies and universities, in part because they are less likely to receive promotions at work than are men.

What is the reason behind this gender gap in promotion? One possibility is that women are less productive than men in their jobs, and promotion decisions are simply rewarding the most productive individuals. Another option is that men and women start off in different types of workplaces, and women’s workplaces could have different promotion processes or expectations that affect their likelihood of promotions. A third possibility is that promotion evaluations themselves contain gender inequality and bias.

In a recent study described here, I tested these three explanations for the gender gap in promotion to tenure in academia, among three disciplines. To do this, I collected and analyzed data on research productivity, school and department context (size, type of university, department prestige, etc.), and promotion outcomes from over 1,500 professors at research universities in three departments.

I find that in Sociology, Computer Science, and English departments, some productivity measures partially account for the gender gap in promotion, but large portions of the gender gap are not explained either by research productivity or by the department/school context. In other words, the results suggest that gender inequality in the promotion evaluation processes are contributing to the gender gap in promotion among professors.

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Research Findings

How does workplace employee representation vary across Europe and why should we care?

February 13, 2018

Employees in Europe have had the right to a voice in company decisions over jobs and working conditions for over 25 years. Since the introduction in 1989 of the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers (the ‘Social Charter’), successive pieces of EU legislation have given employees the right to be informed and consulted by their employer over a variety of issues relating to their work life.

These rights are typically exercised through forms of workplace employee representation – either trade unions or consultative committees (sometimes referred to as ‘works councils’). However, despite the presence of a unified policy framework at the supra-national level, the prevalence of workplace employee representation varies greatly across the European Union (see below). Why is this?

Our recent research – based on data from over 25,000 workplaces across 31 EU Member States and candidate countries – shows that a combination of factors at national, sectoral and workplace level each help to explain why some employees have trade union or works council-type representation at their workplace and others do not.

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Research Findings

Taking a closer look at emotional labor occupations: what are the health consequences for workers?

February 6, 2018

Singh article pic

For many of today’s workers it’s not necessarily enough to give their time, reliability, and skill to a job, they must also give their emotions. Emotional labor—the management and display of emotions at work—has become a prominent job requirement for many occupations in the United States.

Looking at the service producing industries in the U.S., employment in this sector has increased steadily in recent years. Many of the fastest growing occupations are seen in healthcare and social assistance.

As automation and new technologies make many physical and even cognitive-based jobs obsolete, the emotional labor economy—driven by the carework, healthcare, and retail sectors—will put emotional and social skills front and center of the future of work in the United States.

Think home-health aide rather than manual laborer. Therapist instead of financial bookkeeper.

If jobs like these are becoming a staple of the American economy, what are the health implications for contemporary workers when managing emotions is a critical requirement of their job?

Is this ‘emotional labor’ an opportunity for satisfying work through the cultivation of meaningful relationships with customers, or is it a source of stressful interpersonal demands that stifle workers’ ability to have authentic feeling and genuine emotional expression?

We set out to investigate this issue.

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Friday Roundup

Vol. 2, No. 1

February 2, 2018

Happy Friday, Sociologists! We’ve been on hiatus for about a month while we took some time off and launched our new site. We hope you’re enjoying the new look, and that your semesters, if you are a student or a faculty member, are off to excellent starts. We have a lot of links built up from the last few weeks, and a moving video up top from the New York Times about gender, parenting, and transiting. We hope you enjoy!


Poverty in America

Spatial Inequality

Space, Work, and Retail


Big Tech

Working in America

On Campus

Research Findings

Digitalisation of work: Blessing for some, curse for others

January 31, 2018


by Andreas Kornelakis and Dimitra Petrakaki

It is a commonplace that we live in the age of disruption. The latest trend towards digitalisation is set to accelerate changes in the workplace and transform the labour market perhaps irreversibly. Current debates on the digitalisation of work concern the extent and degree to which advanced technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithmic decision-making could substitute for manual labour. More worryingly, this is considered to be a potentiality that affects not only the manufacturing industry but also the services sectors and impact on knowledge-intensive jobs.

But technological innovations do not only lead to the displacement of jobs, they also change the nature of jobs. This transpired in research that we carried out, which examined the complex interplay between work autonomy, technology and routinisation. We examined the cases of two healthcare organisations in England that implemented a new technology (Electronic Patient Record system). We found that the introduction of new technology standardises the work to a degree and constrains the autonomy of high-skill professionals (such as doctors and nurses), but also reallocates task discretion between occupational groups. More broadly, digitalisation may increase work autonomy for some occupational groups, but also standardise work and lead to monotonous and repetitive tasks for other groups.

Some commentators emphasise the perspective of digitalisation as a ‘blessing’. It is seen as one of the key drivers to boost competitiveness and productivity, allowing businesses to operate with minimum costs, whilst ensuring high performance and minimal product defects and human errors. A recent publication from Nesta also highlights that digitalisation and automation should not be demonised given their potential to lead to job creation and to a re-focusing on skills that are more humane such as emotional intelligence and inter-personal skills. Proponents of digitalisation often paint an optimistic view of new digital technologies, ignoring the potential negative disruption on working conditions and societal outcomes.

However, a recent paper by Frey and Osborne finds that technological change drives jobs and skills polarisation in the labour market; with growing inequality between high-income cognitive jobs and low-income manual occupations. Furthermore, the OECD acknowledges that the growing digitalisation of the labour market through the ‘platform economy’ raises questions about wages, labour rights and access to social protections for the workers involved, while it also creates problems of unemployment due to the inherent potential of technology to substitute work. This may also reinvigorate fears of social risks for a ‘race to bottom’ in wages and working conditions and a growing ‘precariat’ as an emerging global class with no financial security, job stability or prospect of career progression.

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Research Findings

Bridgework: Globalization, gender, and service labor at a luxury hotel

January 25, 2018

Sociological studies of work have long ventured overseas to understand the conditions of employment and global networks that produce goods consumed in the global north. Scarce are studies that take a look at globalization and work at the other end of the supply chain: consumer services. This is important because in recent years retailers and hoteliers have traveled from the global north to the global south nearly as fast as manufactured goods have journeyed the opposite direction. This is also critical because the sociology of service work has rarely ventured beyond contexts in which customers and workers largely share in a single culture (with all its etiquettes, manners, symbols and rules), even as class, race and gender differences may be present. As a result, sociologists tend to focus on how workers use familiar habits of behavior in workplaces that require interaction with customers. For example the word “emotion work” is used to describe the psychological effort expended when workers are asked to treat strangers with the warmth they might reserve for family members or friends. Another term “aesthetic labor” describes the ways in which workers’ manner of dress, style, grooming and speech must conform to the meet the expectations of posh or hip clientele. Employers hire workers of the appropriate class backgrounds to perform such labor. Overlooked by these two terms is the effort workers make to learn new ways of expressing emotions, novel styles of presenting themselves and unfamiliar modes of interacting when their customers originate from different nations and cultures.

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Research Findings

“Are we radicals?” Struggling online against a big company

January 18, 2018

Photo is the author’s work.

The migrant crisis, the seemingly unstoppable rise of terrorism and urban violence, the more secretive rise of multinational companies’ power on a global scale, the growing job precariousness, with workers laboring long hours under hazardous conditions for low pay, all these phenomena picture a world of extreme disequilibrium and powerlessness.

So one should accept one’s fate, be it someone being expelled from the Calais jungle, an exploited worker, an evicted Spaniard, or one of the victims of deadly shots or of a crazy truck in the middle of a street…Is this an excessively somber picture, describing late modern people as alone, cut off from their roots, indifferent or ignorant?

The question is important because sometimes people win over big powers. When they decide not to renounce their rights, the dignity of the worker, insisting that the integrity of social life be defended against the vandalism of corporate rationality, when they radicalize their resistance, certain things are possible. This is what we learn from a three-year online ethnographic study conducted on a group of bloggers, former insurance sellers fired by their company for having refused to change crucial aspects of how they do their job, and how they are paid for a job well done.

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Research Findings

How do occupational characteristics hinder or empower mothers?

January 10, 2018

Mothers have been shown to receive lower pay than childless women across industrial countries. In the United States, research based on women born in the 1960s or earlier indicates that mothers earn 4-5% less per child, compared to childless women with similar education, length of work experience, and frequency of employment interruptions.

The pay gap between mothers and non-mothers who are otherwise similar—the so-called “motherhood wage penalty”—has been shown to differ in size for women with different marital status, skill level, and age. We know relatively little, however, about how the characteristics of occupations shape the degree to which women are penalized for having children. Occupations, by design, differ in their required training, schedules, and activities. The different work conditions and requirements across occupations may empower or hinder mothers, thereby narrowing or widening the pay gap between mothers and non-mothers.

How exactly should occupational characteristics affect the extent of the motherhood wage penalty? The answer to this question depends on why mothers receive lower wages than childless women in the first place. Because mothers face greater family obligations and time constraints, they may not be able to meet job demands the way childless women can—e.g., being very flexible in making work-related plans—resulting in mothers’ worse job performance and lower pay. If work-family conflict largely accounts for the motherhood wage penalty, then this penalty should be greater in occupations that enable workers less autonomy and more teamwork, as the job performance for such occupations depends more on workers’ ability to perform a certain task at a certain time. Because more autonomous occupations enable greater decision-making latitude, which is thought to lessen job strain, they may also decrease the work-family conflict mothers frequently face, thereby reducing mothers’ wage disadvantage. Likewise, because occupations that require workers to compete intensely with peers tend to be more stressful and time-demanding, mothers in more competitive occupations should be especially likely to suffer from job strain and work-family conflict, resulting in a greater motherhood penalty.

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Research Findings

Occupational licensing has no effect on wages, but does increase access to occupations

December 28, 2017

Image by Beth Redbird

Occupational licensure creates a right to practice, legislatively carving out tasks that can only be performed by authorized practitioners and reserving an occupational title for the sole use of those practitioners.  The authority to practice can be obtained only from the state, and unauthorized practice can result in criminal and civil penalties.

Over the past few decades, occupational closure – most often through occupational licensing – quietly became the norm for a broad swath of American occupations. Where only a small set of ‘traditional’ professions once determined entry through regulation, today the practice governs a much wider range of occupations, from doctors to engineers, carpet layers to massage therapists, agricultural inspectors to wilderness guides, and fortune tellers to legal document assistants.

The most substantial growth in occupational licensing has been in blue-collar occupations.

Many occupational licensing boards are made up of senior professionals in that field. Thus, architects draft guidelines for other architects; standards for hairdressers are styled by instructors in cosmetology schools; and frog farmers must leap over barriers imposed by fellow amphibious agriculturalists.

Because not every worker who wants a license can obtain one, licensure is thought to raise wages for licensed workers by artificially restricting supply. If true, this would mean that licensed workers benefit at the expense of consumers.

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