Browsing Category

Research Findings

Research Findings

A second chance in the military


January 21, 2021

As many as 1 in 3 Americans have some type of criminal record. Many of them face multiple barriers to employment.

In 2018, 95 percent of employers conducted background checks during the hiring process, which was up from 70 percent of the employers surveyed in 2012. In addition, many state occupational licensing laws prohibit people with criminal records from joining licensed professions. These barriers, coupled with the persistent social stigma surrounding past arrest and conviction records, mean that employment prospects are grim for a substantial segment of the U.S. population.

Within this social context, the United States military happens to be one of the largest employers to regularly hire people with a criminal record. However, we know little about their lives, other than that people with a criminal record perform equally well or better than their counterparts without a criminal record.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Labor’s Legacy


January 14, 2021

At the same time that union density in the United States has declined and labor law has withered, employment law has flourished, proliferating at the subnational level and expanding into new substantive domains (see Figures 1 and 2 below).

As a result, for the vast majority of 21st century workers, what rights and protections remain come not from labor law and the mechanism of collective bargaining, but from employment laws and the mechanisms of regulation and litigation.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

No escape: When workplaces use social media


January 7, 2021

Existing studies on how information and communication technologies influence work find that workers use digital media to control their work-life boundaries. But in China, social media is all pervasive with a permanent memory. There is no escape in time or space, and resistance is futile.

In a recent article, I examine how workplace subordinates interact with their supervisors on WeChat, the most popular app in China. I find that lower-ranked individuals are compelled to constantly express their loyalty and appreciation and publicly submit to their superiors by clicking “like” or commenting on their posts. They also have to provide immediate and polite responses to their superordinates in WeChat group chats after work hours and with respect to non-work-related issues.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Who is the boss? The social class disadvantage for becoming a manager is big and it’s costly


December 10, 2020

Social class is arguably the greatest barrier to advancement at work, yet it is mostly ignored by companies’ diversity, inclusion and equity efforts. In a recent study with Jean Oh, we found that in the U.S., individuals from lower social-class origins face disadvantages at least as large as women and Black Americans in terms of becoming a manager. In most countries around the globe, we found, the social-class disadvantage is even greater than it is in the U.S.! And, the social class disadvantage impacts a lot of people—around the world, more people identify with lower than higher social classes.

Of course, individuals from lower social class origins suffer losses because they are less likely to become managers, as managerial roles are associated with job satisfaction, health, and income. But companies and countries also suffer from this exclusion.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Why global solidarity is important for global labor strategy


December 3, 2020

Since the 1970s, there has been a global resurgence of sweatshop working conditions in numerous industries, from apparel to high-tech electronics to agriculture. In their attempts to improve their working conditions, however, these workers are often not struggling alone, but have a range of allies, from local labor rights and human rights organizations to social justice groups in the US and Europe.

One of the groups in the US that has been particularly successful in supporting sweatshop workers is United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national network of students at colleges and universities. They have helped workers in factories around the world unionize and improve their working conditions.

What may be most surprising about USAS’ strategy to many observers is that USAS does not normally use what might think is the most obvious strategy against apparel companies using sweatshop labor—the boycott. Why? Because the workers they seek to help oppose such boycotts.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Teaching thrift to the poor

and
November 26, 2020

Job-readiness programs have become the predominant response to the joblessness and precariousness of the poor. These programs aim to instill within clients the cherished virtue of work. But, as we show in a recent article, they also promote the hallowed virtue of thrift.

We build upon Batya Weinbaum and Amy Bridges’s argument, in their 1976 piece in Monthly Review, that consumption is a form of labor deserving of greater attention. We show that job-readiness programs do not just condition participants to labor, but condition them to this labor of consumption, casting the latter as the most likely path toward mobility. They do not just encourage clients to enter the labor market, but pressure them to endure the daily indignities and insufficient earnings of low-wage work through an embrace of individual austerity.

Job readiness programs, we argue, thus focus on “both sides of the paycheck:” the earning of a paycheck as well as the spending, stretching, and even supplementing of that paycheck.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Is A Global Framework for Regulating Transnational Corporations Possible?


November 19, 2020

Should governments mandate corporate social responsibility worldwide so that businesses can be held legally accountable for their social and environmental commitments? International organizations seriously considered this question in the 1970s but the proposal for a global framework to regulate transnational corporations collapsed in spectacular fashion, only to be resurrected in the 1990s in a much different form.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) – the notion that businesses should address their social and environmental impacts – is largely a voluntary affair today, where businesses have much discretion to decide if and how they want to practice CSR.

In a recent historical study, I show how the relative power of state and private actors within global institutions determines the fate of regulatory frameworks.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

“They just won’t sell to you”: When businesses are gatekeepers of customers

, and
November 12, 2020

Gatekeeping is defined as the work of assessing who is “in” or “out”; to identify those deemed worthy of passing through a gate. But while this important classic theory is often used to consider who gets to speak, in terms of the selection of artists, journalists and other producers of content, gatekeepers also practice this essential selection work with customers.

The gatekeeping of consumers is often not considered as a form of gatekeeping. Nonetheless, the idea of gatekeeping customers is logical when we think about credit cards, home loans, nightclubs, R-rated movies and many other areas where consumers have to be qualified. But, what about customers given access to high-end culture, such as rare pieces of fine art?

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

The algorithmic university and the struggle over academic labor


November 5, 2020


The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has another casualty that has gotten little widespread attention—in person teaching and learning in higher education. As self-isolation and quarantines have suppressed the transmission of the virus, the turn toward remote work using new teleconferencing technology threatens to also sweep away many of the barriers to the spread of another epidemic—the digital automation and deskilling of teaching in higher education. The pandemic has created the ideal circumstances for “edtech” venture capitalists, textbook publishers, Learning Management Systems (LMS) companies, and online education advocacy groups to expand the widespread deskilling and automation of teaching in colleges and universities.  

This rationalization of academic labor has had profound effects on US public community colleges and universities. In the past decade, on-line education (OLE) in the US has been making slow and steady gains. The widespread reliance on teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom to move nearly all higher education into OLE during the pandemic has accelerated the reorganization of the academic work of higher education. 

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Elaborating on the abstract: Group meaning-making in a Colombian microsavings program


October 30, 2020

What happens when official information aimed at changing people’s behaviors clashes with popular accounts and folk theories? In a time of conspiracy theories and conflicting narratives about everything from pandemic precautions to TikTok, this question is often top of mind.

In a recent article with Laura Doering, we examine this question in the context of a financial inclusion program in Colombia. Financial inclusion, or the incorporation of low-income consumers into the formal financial sector, has become a priority for governments, banks, and international organizations around the world, and Colombia is no exception. According to the World Bank, fewer than half of Colombians have a bank account, and the poor are especially unlikely to have one. 

Continue Reading…