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one percent

Research Findings

The One Percent Glass Ceiling: Gender Dynamics in Top Income Positions

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March 28, 2019

It is clear from research on corporate leadership that a glass ceiling prevents many women from occupying top executive or CEO positions.

In a recent article, we find that the glass ceiling is far more extensive than previous literature finds: women are not just excluded from top leadership positions, but rather they are excluded from nearly all top income positions regardless of occupation. We also find that progress on this front has been stalled for the last twenty years.

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Research Findings

Meatpacking work: Creating structural precarity and sacrifice zones in COVID-19

October 21, 2021

In the early weeks of the pandemic, it became clear that meatpacking workers would bear a heavy burden, along with other frontline workers. In the meatpacking and food processing plant sector, nearly 92,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 466 workers have died from COVID-19, as of September 2021. Available data show that workers of color account for 80% of confirmed cases in an industry in which people of color comprise 80% of the workforce.

In a recent article in Sociological Perspectives, we drew on case studies of meatpacking facilities in three Midwestern states to analyze how industry consolidation and the hiring of marginalized workers affected worker safety and food system stability during the pandemic. We find that the meatpacking industry’s hyper-concentration and exploitative labor strategies created precarious structural conditions which COVID-19 deepened, producing two inter-connected processes:

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Research Findings

“It’s the value that we bring.” how top income earners view inequality

March 16, 2023

The “one percent” are increasingly seen as an important point of debate in discussions on rising inequalities. But how do top income earners themselves perceive their income? Do they view top incomes as fair?

To answer this question, I conducted a study where I interviewed people in the United Kingdom with incomes that place them within the top one percent of the distribution. Most of the 30 top income earners I talked to were men, lived in London and worked in the financial industry. They worked in firms such as investment banks, hedge funds, and barristers’ chambers.

I found that the cultural process of performance pay is important for how top income earners perceive inequality.

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New book

How unions transformed the power of capital into power for workers

November 11, 2021

The 1970s and 1980s marked a disaster for the U.S. labor movement. Gone was nearly one out of three members in the private sector, once the heart of organized labor. Today unions represent six percent of corporate employees, the same as in 1929.

Facing slow extinction, leaders of large unions and their federations sought to rebuild. It led to prolonged membership campaigns like Justice for Janitors and the creation of an organizing-oriented union federation, Change to Win. There was experimentation with new tactics, one of which was the leveraging of union pension assets to restore labor’s power.

My new book, Labor in the Age of Finance: Pensions, Politics, and Corporations, examines the financial turn. It came on the heels of a shareholder revolt led by public pension plans from blue states and cities, the vanguard being the giant California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). Whereas once most stock was directly owned by households, post-1980 financialization transferred ownership to a relatively small group of institutional investors, including pension funds.

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Research Findings

Driven by Inequalities: Exploring the Resurgence of Domestic Work in US Cities

May 27, 2021

To many Americans, the term “domestic servant” conjures up images of other places and other times. Maybe it is Downton Abbey. Or maybe it is a Latin American country. Or if we do think about the United States, we think about a time long in the past. 

But contrary to popular perceptions, domestic service is very much a part of the contemporary American landscape, and is in fact on the rise for the first time in over one hundred years.

What explains this twenty-first century resurgence of an occupation that sociologist Lewis Coser declared obsolete in 1973? The short answer: inequality.

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Research Findings

Volunteer work increases income but only among workers in higher-level occupations

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January 30, 2020

Many people today, spend some of their spare time doing volunteer work in the belief that it will be looked upon favorably by employers and lead to better-paying jobs. 

A recent analysis of longitudinal data from the United Kingdom published in Social Science Research confirms that they are correct, but only for those with jobs in the “salariat” – professionals, managers, administrators and the like – while working class volunteers pay a penalty for their altruism.

This topic is of considerable interest today because recent developments in the economies of advanced industrial societies have changed the social contract between employers and employees. As employment has become more precarious, workers find they can no longer rely on a system where opportunities are defined internally by tenure or rank; instead, they must market themselves. Under constant pressure to prepare for the next job, they are advised to network assiduously, learn new skills by returning to school, and even take classes on writing persuasive job applications and performing well in interviews. In some cases they are advised to take unpaid or marginally paid positions such as internships or to perform volunteer work. 

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Research Findings

Income and wealth are not highly correlated: here is why and what it means

October 29, 2018

The association between income and wealth is surprisingly complex and not well-understood. Yet this relationship is central to many of the questions that scholars of work, occupations, and inequality study.

The two are related but conceptually distinct: income is the flow of financial resources into a household from wages and salaries, investment returns, government transfer payments, and other sources. By contrast, wealth is a household’s total saved resources and is usually measured as net worth (total assets less total debts).

Both income and wealth are important measures of household financial well-being, the benefits a household receives from paid labor, and inequality across households. Not surprisingly, academics have rightfully studied both measures extensively; however, the association between income and wealth—beyond what each measure tells us on its own—holds additional and critical information that has attracted very little attention.

At first, the relationship between income and wealth may seem simple: as income increases, so too should wealth. Indeed, many assume that these indicators are strongly and positively correlated. In reality, the correlation between income and wealth is positive but relatively low, and there is no single, simple explanation for what happens to wealth when income rises.

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Research Findings

How does race, gender, and sexuality shape the murder of transgender people in the United States?

May 18, 2023

Many people believe that transphobia is the only cause of violence experienced by transgender people. If that was true, all transgender people would be at equal risk of experiencing violence at all times. However, there are actually distinct patterns in this violence related to gender, race, and sexuality. These social systems interact in ways that increase the risk of violence for certain transgender people, while decreasing it for others. Identifying these patterns is vital to developing effective policies and practices to prevent it.

Until recently, violence against transgender people was extremely understudied, reducing our ability to effectively recognize factors shaping this violence. To address part of this knowledge gap, I used an innovative method to create an original dataset of all the known murders of transgender people in the United States during the 30-year period between 1990 and 2019. The first of its kind, this dataset is comprised of information gathered from activist, mainstream news, and government sources.

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Research Findings

How startup diversity debt becomes self-reinforcing?

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December 1, 2022

Why are women less interested than men in applying for startup jobs? In a new article published in the Academy of Management Journal, we uncover an essential piece to this puzzle: Women are less interested in applying for startups when fewer women are already employed in these startups. Confused already? Let’s take a few steps back and try to explain this catch-22 situation.

Diversity debt

Women are underrepresented among entrepreneurs and their investors, but also among “joiners” – the distinct group of people who are attracted to employment in startups but have little desire to become founders.

When startups scale their workforce, they often accrue “diversity debt”– an initially skewed gender composition that demands costly and often unsuccessful attempts to remedy gender disparities as the organization grows. 

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Research Findings

What it’s Like when She Earns More: Does Race Matter?

November 17, 2022

Heterosexual marriages where the wife earns more than her husband are increasingly prevalent in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women out-earn their husbands in almost 30% of dual-earner couples in 2020, up from just 18% in the 1980s. This is despite the fact that traditional ideas endure and many men still feel strong pressure to be the family breadwinner.

Clearly, there is a misalignment between women’s increasing economic power and the still prevalent traditional or “neotraditional” male-breadwinner model, a model in which wives either are not working or are employed but earn considerably less than their husbands. Does such a disjuncture lead to stress? Google certainly thinks so. A quick search of “wife breadwinner” leads to autocompleted terms such as “resentment,” “divorce,” or “wants divorce.” This is in line with previous research showing heightened risk of marital dissatisfaction and marital dissolution when wives earn more.

What is less understood, however, is whether this pattern reflects largely white couples’ experiences. Compared with whites, families in which the wife is the sole or primary breadwinner are much more common among Blacks. This can be traced back to the distinct work history of Blacks. Black men, for example, do not enjoy a boost in wages (“daddy bonus”) as much as their white counterparts when they become a father. Co-provider parents who both work for pay has long been the norm for Black married couples. Indeed, a recent interview study shows that a key component of being a strong Black woman is to being able to provide financially for the family. Being an equal- or sole-breadwinner is not problematic for Black women.

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