Monthly Archives

November 2018

Research Findings

Our choices as employees may lead to workplace segregation

November 29, 2018

Business people working on laptops during a meeting

There is widespread ethno-racial segregation between workplaces in the US, even within the same job sector. Research suggests that as many as 50 percent of all African American and Hispanic workers would have to change jobs to achieve integrated workplaces.

Employers contribute to this segregation through hiring decisions, but what is the role of the choices that we, as employees, make when looking for a workplace? People tend to live, work and socialize within their own ethno-racial group. This has both positives and negatives.

On the positive side, a segregated city may offer a safe zone for individuals belonging to discriminated minorities. In a community with similar others, spaces can be created where the larger society’s racial hierarchy does not apply. On the negative side, the problem is that in societies where there is a lot of ethno-racial inequality, segregation tends to reinforce these differences.

In segregated societies, minorities tend to live in impoverished areas with high crime rates and poor public and commercial services. We know from previous research that ethno-racial inequality is also connected to occupational segregation: children of poor families tend to aim for blue-collar jobs, while children of wealthy families tend to aim for high-level white-collar jobs.

What has been less known, is what causes segregation between workplaces in the same sector. The aim of our study was to find another piece of the puzzle.

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Research Findings

Gender differences in wage gains following a job change

November 22, 2018

Americans love to change their jobs. One of the primary reasons many individuals change companies is undoubtedly the promise of higher wages. Recently however, researchers have begun to examine the extent to which changing jobs benefits men more than women.

The reasons men may see a larger salary increase than women following a job change can be classified into two broad categories. The first category involves the characteristics and treatment of individual men and women.  Examples include gender discrimination in hiring practices as well as gender role socialization, e.g. women being reluctant to negotiate for higher wages in the hiring process out of a fear of being or being perceived as too aggressive.

The second category relates to the fact that men and women tend to be employed in different occupations, e.g. occupational segregation. Not only do the occupations that tend to employ men typically pay more, these occupations may also offer greater potential for “job-shopping”, e.g. raising one’s salary by finding a position at a competing firm that is willing and able to pay higher wages.

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Research Findings

Automation and the future of work: A view from inside a tech startup

November 13, 2018

Are smart machines coming for our jobs?

In the past, technological change has generally led to the displacement of workers from some jobs, but also to the creation of new work. For example, as automation reduced the number of workers needed to grow and harvest crops in the early 20th century, technological change resulted in employment gains in the manufacturing and service sectors.

Today, however, many worry that the historical link between technological innovation and job creation may be coming to an end.

Big data and artificial intelligence make it possible for computers to perform tasks that previously required complex human cognition. Software algorithms are already driving cars, diagnosing diseases, and writing news articles.

A credible case can be made that, thanks to the rapid development of AI, this wave of technological change will usher in an era of widespread unemployment.

Most contemporary inquiries into the future of work offer projections of employment trends at the level of industries or occupations. These studies are useful for helping us conceptualize broad shifts in labor markets, but they aren’t able to shed light on the complex and unpredictable ways in which human workers and software systems interact in real-world settings.

In a recent study, I argue that in-depth examinations of the organizations in which software algorithms are developed and implemented can help us generate new insights into the question of when software systems function autonomously, and when they rely on the assistance of complementary human workers.

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Research Findings

Privatised profit inside prisons: real work for prisoners or invisible exploitation?

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November 9, 2018

Prison Barbed Wire Fence

This summer we have seen what could be considered one of the largest prison strikes in US history, where prisoners are undertaking nineteen days of peaceful protest.

Some of the demands that underpin these protests are the need for improved prison conditions and greater funding in rehabilitation. But at the heart of this protest is a demonstration against imposed prison labour and the disturbingly low wages that accompany such work. This approach to prison work, an approach where profit is becoming more prevalent and private organisations are becoming more and more involved in the prison system, is not isolated to the US.

The research discussed here is based on a study conducted in the UK and is particularly pertinent in helping us to understand the reasoning behind the strikes and the feelings and experiences of those prisoners protesting.
Employment has been singled out as an important factor in reducing reoffending.

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Research Findings

Learning to be Latino in college

November 6, 2018

Every fall, a new crop of students enrolls in colleges across the country. Some pack up their belongings, leaving home and moving into dorms on campuses, while others start daily commutes.

And just as students’ paths to college vary, so do the campuses at which they arrive.

Colleges vary across multiple dimensions: from organizational and political culture, to level of prestige, peer culture, party scene, athletic emphasis, and racial-ethnic climate.

In recent work, I ask how some of these differences shape the college experiences of Latino students and find impact on their identity formation, civic engagement and more.

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