Monthly Archives

February 2018

New book

Teenage work and gender: Origins of the pay gap

February 27, 2018

Pay is a persistent problem from many in the labor market and for many women’s lives. A wide range of perspectives have explored this problem. The human capital approach of mainstream economics emphasizes individual differences between men and women in education, skills and job experience in explaining the pay gap. These differences are explained by women’s childcare and domestic duties which result in labor force interruptions.

The occupational segregation approach of sociology, on the other hand, focuses on occupational characteristics and explains women’s lower pay through differences in their occupations, positions and sectors.

No matter how they approach the pay gap, almost every study on the pay gap has one thing in common: they focus on the adult labor force. However, in the United States, most teenagers work sometime throughout high school. Therefore, work experience and potentially the wage gap start long before the completion of education.

In recent research I have examined the teenage work force. By focusing on this group, I include a previously neglected yet substantial portion of our workforce. More importantly, focusing on early work experiences is like a social laboratory where many typical explanations of the wage gap: motherhood, childcare, housework are simply not applicable.

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Research Findings

What the public thinks about denial of service to same-sex

February 25, 2018

The Supreme Court is hearing a case—Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission—about whether a business can refuse service to a gay couple for religious reasons. But is this case really about religious liberty, or is it about something else?

In a national survey experiment with Brian Powell and Lauren Apgar, we asked Americans what they thought about denial of services. What they said surprised us.

We presented people with a vignette—or short scenario—in which a gay or interracial couple attempted to purchase wedding invitation portraits and was refused service. These vignettes varied the reason for refusal (religious/nonreligious) and the type of business refusing services (individual/corporation). We then asked our respondents to tell us whether they supported the refusal.

We expected religion reasons for refusal to be key in whether Americans supported refusal. But, surprisingly, people who support denial of service don’t see it as a matter of religious freedom. Americans were just as likely to support a business denying service for non-religious reasons as for religious reasons. In other words, religious freedom has no impact on Americans’ beliefs about denial of service.

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Research Findings

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