Research Findings

A Double Bind for Asian American Women in Leadership?

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November 11, 2019

Women face a double bind when they are in leadership positions. They are expected to be competent and authoritative, but others often see their authoritative behavior as overly dominant, and a violation of gender stereotypes. In other words, women face a “dominance penalty” when they act authoritatively, but they face questions about their competence when they do not act authoritatively. Research has documented this double bind in a number of settings, but these studies have by and large focused on white women. 

Recent research challenges the universality of the dominance penalty, and suggests that race and gender intersect to shape reactions to authoritative behavior. For example, recent studies have shown that in a professional workplace context, black women who demonstrate high levels of competence face less backlash when they behave authoritatively than do comparable white women or black men. 

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Research Findings

Could expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit help fix the housing crisis?

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November 7, 2019

Access to stable housing is critical to the wellbeing of individuals and families. As rents have risen and wages have not kept pace, finding affordable housing in the U.S. has gotten harder. This is especially true for low-income families, who often spend more than half their income on rent.

The U.S. has a number of housing policies, like Housing Choice Vouchers, to help low-income families find and afford housing, but only about 25% of eligible households get assistance. Housing vouchers can also be challenging to use when landlords refuse to accept them. This led us to consider whether a different policy – the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – might help improve families’ housing situations. We wanted to know whether making the EITC more generous for low-income families might be another way to address the housing affordability crisis.

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Research Findings

Letting companies off the hook: How top executives explain away inequality


November 4, 2019

“The question I have is: do we really have a problem? Does [our company] have a problem? From the data I’ve seen, I don’t think so. I think the industry and this country potentially has a problem.”

This is what one high-level executive, Mike (pseudonyms used throughout), told me when I asked him about the causes of gender inequality in the technology industry.

In new research to be published in Gender & Society, I report on a year-long case study of a Silicon Valley technology company implementing a gender equality initiative. I explore how high-level executives’ explanations for inequality impact the change efforts they pursue. I find that executives tend to attribute responsibility to the broader society (as Mike does), or to individuals, rather than the organization.

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Research Findings

In rural India, segregation can make you taller


October 30, 2019

Height is correlated with cognitive achievement, wages, and even lifespan. This is because height in part reflects a person’s early life health environment: children who receive better nutrition and have fewer childhood diseases grow taller, on average, than children who are less well-nourished and more often ill. The relationship between height and cognitive achievement is especially steep in poorer countries, where child health problems are more severe and varied than in richer countries. 

Child height is therefore a useful tool for understanding inequality, both across countries and within countries. Child height in India has received attention from the academics and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because children in India are shorter than would be predicted by the country’s economic conditions. 

Yet, few have investigated disparities in child height within India. In a recent study, my co-authors Ashwini Deshpande, Jeffrey Hammer, Dean Spears, and I set out to fill this gap by asking the question: does average child height in India vary by caste and tribal status? If so, why?  

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Research Findings

Tackling poverty by repairing a broken American institution with technology

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October 23, 2019

Most disputes in U.S. state courts are minor infractions, such as traffic violations. Yet for Americans living in poverty, a traffic ticket is not merely annoying; it could result in a worst-case scenario of losing a job or being thrown in jail.

A recent study by one of us found that online court software may offer a solution for minor legal disputes by connecting needy defendants to courts, for free, from anywhere with internet access: a public library, a family member’s mobile device, or a shelter. By improving and easing communication, online access can empower poor litigants to seek appropriate forms of relief, facilitate information sharing, and ultimately improve the accuracy of justice system outcomes.

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Research Findings

Do men favor men in recruitment?


October 17, 2019

Research shows that, in general, men have an advantage over women in the labor market: men tend to have higher wages and reach authority positions to a greater extent compared to women. It has been suggested that discriminatory behavior by employers may be one possible reason for the observed gender disparities in career-related outcomes.

While there is a lot of research on gender discrimination in recruitment, conclusive evidence is still lacking. Moreover, little is known about possible gender discrimination by the employer’s gender. Do male employers favor men over women in recruitment? Do female employers prefer recruiting women rather than men?

To answer these questions, a recent study investigates whether the treatment of male and female job applicants differ by the gender of the recruiter. Fictitious job applications in response to real job openings in the Swedish labor market were sent and the employer callbacks, i.e., employers’ responses to the job applications, were observed. Thus, the first stage of the recruitment process (in which the selection of applicants to be contacted for interviews takes place) was studied.

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New book

Rising and falling inequalities: A relational approach

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October 14, 2019

It is well known that earnings inequality has been rising in the US and many other countries over the last forty years. What is less well known, is that the great rise in contemporary earnings inequalities is propelled to a large extent by between-workplace wage polarization, whereby some organizations accumulate large resource bases while others fight over the crumbs.

These processes have been described as being propelled by “macro” forces: the financialization of production encouraging externalization, physical and social technologies of surveillance that enable between firm control of production, skill-biased technological change,  and market fundamentalism in public policy that permit unfettered firm practices.

However, macro trends are always products of a set of meso-level organizational decisions. It was not disembodied “technology” or “markets” that generated the growth in inequality, but social movements promoting the interests of shareholders over other stakeholders, neoliberal policy orientations in the state, and union-busting consultants that drove these shifts.

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Research Findings

The past is the past? How slavery still benefits white Americans


October 10, 2019

Arguments against racial reparations in the United States often lean on the assertions that slavery was “a long time ago,” that no one alive today suffered as a slave in the United States, and that no one alive today owned any slaves in the United States (at least not legally; we know human trafficking remains a major problem). The argument generally proceeds that therefore no one suffered from slavery and no one benefitted so no one deserves reparations.

“The past is the past,” they say.

Sociologists and other social scientists disagree. The past may be the past but it continues to have a measurable influence on contemporary social outcomes, and “legacy of slavery” research shows that chattel slavery is directly related to a wide variety of phenomena in the United States: violent crime rates, black election turnout, executions, educational inequality, economic inequality, school segregation. And internationally, researchers find that the slave trade significantly stunted the economic development of places in Africa where slaves were stolen and places where slavery was more widespread historically, with the exception of the United States.

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Research Findings

Diversity policies: how workers feel about them and why

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October 7, 2019

Each year, firms invest millions of dollars in diversity programs aimed at increasing the representation and advancement of women and racial minorities. Sociologists have found that some of these programs work, and some do more harm than good. One key ingredient in whether diversity programs improve, or worsen, the representation of women and racial minorities is if these initiatives are supported by employees. Programs that are viewed positively by workers are more likely to produce the intended results, while those that are resisted may result in a backlash and actually make conditions worse for underrepresented groups.

In a recent study, we explored how people feel about different types of diversity programs and why they feel the way they do. We used data from a TESS (Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences) survey that asked nearly 2,000 working individuals whether they supported eight different diversity policies. The design of the survey allowed us to see if support differed based on whether policies are aimed at women or racial minorities, as well as if support differed based on if the policies were justified to improve diversity, address discrimination, or if no justification is given.

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Research Findings

Black and Muslim Disadvantage Hits Home in Philadelphia

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October 2, 2019

Anti-Muslim sentiment is alive and growing in America.  Between 2003 and 2014, the share of Americans disapproving of their child marrying a Muslim increased from 34 to 50 percent, with Muslims comprising the least desirable marriage partners, compared to atheists, gays, Jews, and African Americans. 

Similarly, the percentage of Americans reporting that Muslims “do not agree at all with their vision of American society” increased from 26 to 45 percent, with Muslims comprising the most distrusted group. 

Despite growing animosity towards Muslims, we know very little about the kinds of neighborhoods where they live.  Urban scholars have had a long-standing interest in where minority groups live because neighborhoods provide connections to a society’s majority members, economic and educational opportunities, and enhancements to health and quality of life. Because we lack data on where people of different religious backgrounds live in the United States, Muslims’ residential patterns have remained absent from these studies. 

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