Author Archives

Steve McDonald

Research Findings

Illuminating the linguistic marketplace

May 6, 2021

Language is part and parcel of work. Sociological approaches to the study of language at work have tended to emphasize dramatic differences in language use at work, such as the discrimination that immigrants face when attempting to enter or navigate new workplaces where the language spoken is not their own. Yet language operates on a much more subtle level. Linguistic differences that are difficult to detect can effectively distinguish between people who are engaged in different kinds of work. 

We address these subtleties in a recent study by drawing on precise socio-linguistic measurement techniques to examine how specific dialect features are associated with the development of linguistic employment niches. Our study examines how the expression of six Southern US vowel sounds maps onto the industrial workforce experiences of 190 native Raleigh, North Carolina speakers. We show that dialect features are not only tied to specific industries, but that the dynamic connection between dialect and industry helps to reveal fundamental transformations in a community’s socio-linguistic landscape. 

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Segmenting the online job market: Avoiding black holes and recruiting purple squirrels

, and
August 14, 2019

Many view the Internet as the ultimate labor market tool. By massively expanding information about job openings (through job posting sites like and job seekers (through social media sites like LinkedIn), the internet has reduced the information boundedness problem that plagued earlier labor markets.

But greater exposure to information on both sides of the labor market is insufficient for an expanded opportunity. In fact, it could lead to greater segmentation of the workforce.

To learn more about how the internet has transformed the market for labor, we interviewed 61 HR professionals in two southern metro areas in the US. We asked them to explain how they used the internet for posting jobs, recruiting workers, and reviewing job applicants. The results revealed two very different ways in which organizational actors perceive the online labor market.

Continue Reading…