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Research Findings

Research Findings

Strangers, trust, and class cleavages in Mexico City


February 20, 2020

Who would you entrust your car to? Many of us who drive entrust our cars to parking valets, exchanging the keys for a small ticket handed to us by a company employee, often stationed behind a kiosk where prices are shown. We find comfort in knowing that if the car were to be stolen, we could always call the police to handle the matter. We might also entrust our cars to friends or family members. Since they are close to us, we expect them to take good care of the vehicle. 

These two scenarios roughly correspond to the two predominant explanations that the social science literature offers about what makes trust possible. In the first case, reliable institutions make trust possible; in the second, group dynamics—and particularly, the recognition of others as members of our same group (homophily)—do. 

Yet, in a recently published article, I explore the case of informal car-parkers in Mexico City—often dubbed “viene-vienes”—and their interactions with clients, which defies both of these explanations. Amid the busy streets of Mexico City, with its terrible traffic and limited parking, middle- and high-class Mexicans often entrust their cars—keys and all—to informal car parkers with no institutional affiliations. 

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Research Findings

The market-money-infrastructures problem nexus in Europe


February 18, 2020

What is the relationship between markets, money and their infrastructures? Economists tell us that the relationship is straightforward: money makes markets “fluid” and adequate infrastructures make them efficient. But ongoing attempts at integrating financial markets in Europe teach us a different story.

In a series of three recently published research articles, I analyze the interlacing problems in present-day Europe of (a) creating an integrated infrastructure for financial markets, (b) rendering financial markets liquid and efficient without producing systemic risks, and (c) drawing a line between money as a tradeable commodity in the market and as a fluidifying medium for markets (an infrastructure).

This nexus of problems reveals fundamental contradictions inscribed in the legal and political foundations for still ongoing European financial market integration processes. Mapping these contradictions can recast our understanding of controversies and debates related to integration processes ranging from bureaucratic disagreements over technical issues to open political conflict in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis of 2009.

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Research Findings

Are unemployed men more likely to enter female-dominated occupations?

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February 7, 2020

The US labor market has undergone major changes in the types of occupations that are in demand over the last fifty years. Since the 1970s, many jobs and sectors traditionally dominated by men have contracted or disappeared. For example, the manufacturing and construction sectors – both heavily male-dominated sectors – were among the hardest hit industries during the Great Recession in terms of job losses, and jobs in the manufacturing sector have had an overall decline of over 50% since the 1970s

On the other hand, the demand for jobs traditionally held by women has increased significantly, and these patterns are expected to continue in the future. In fact, women dominate the majority of industries projected to have the highest job growth over the next decade. If the jobs that women currently dominate represent the future occupational landscape, will men enter these jobs? 

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Research Findings

How managers shape racialized employee networks in the workplace


February 4, 2020
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Diversity is increasingly recognized as important in the workplace, be it for performance, legitimacy, or social justice reasons, and schools as workplaces are no exception. Three recent trends in education point to the importance of a racially diverse teacher workforce for better student outcomes, especially for racial minority students. 

First, studies in education continually show gains in gifted placement, attendance, and achievement for racial minority students assigned to a racial minority teacher. Second, such “racial matching” is not available to many racial minority students because of racial segregation in schools. While more than 50% of US public school children are nonwhite, only 20% of public school teachers in the US are nonwhite. Third, nonwhite teachers have higher levels of turnover than white teachers.

We need a deeper understanding of not only how schools recruit teachers of color, but also how organizational conditions in schools can better retain teachers of color. These insights can be applied to similar organizational settings where diversity management is consequential for client/customer experiences and outcomes (e.g., hospitals, retail), or to any workplace concerned with racial equity in employees’ access to workplace resources post-hire.

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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

Unequal school access shapes ethnic boundaries in students’ identities and friendships

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January 21, 2020

Every school year, a new cohort of parents faces the challenge of finding the right school for their child – each year with a disheartening result: ethnic minority children tend to end up at schools of lower prestige and quality. Intriguingly, this ethnic stratification across schools affects not only their further school careers, but it profoundly shapes minority students’ identities and their social relationships with their classmates.

Ethnic stratification, the uneven distribution of majority and minority children across schools of different prestige, is widespread: in various countries, at various school transitions, and in various school systems. A substantial share of the ethnic and racial inequalities we observe in modern societies originates from ethnic stratification in the school system.

But schools provide more than grades and certificates. It is here where youth form lasting friendships, where they develop their views, attitudes, and identities. Does unequal school sorting not only create unequal life chances but also produce stronger ethnic boundaries in the minds and relations of youth?

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Research Findings

How privileged mothers experience unemployment


January 14, 2020

The six month period before she lost her job had been painful for Doris Richards (all names are pseudonyms). A lawyer who worked at a family-run firm, Doris was convinced that the owners were trying to elbow her out of their firm by making her working life miserable. When they finally did, Doris felt a sense of relief. She says, “One of the things I felt was, ‘Oh good, I can go to [events my kids are involved in]…I have more time now. I don’t feel pulled. I don’t feel as though I’m being tortured at work anymore. And I felt I could give more to my kids.”

This may seem like an unusual response to unemployment, especially given that Doris earned considerably more than her husband who is in the public sector.

In my recent article, I show how unemployment – whether they were fired, made redundant, or laid off – was a different experience for college-educated, professional, married heterosexual mothers than what prior theories of unemployment, often drawing largely from men’s experiences, would indicate.

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Research Findings

Why women (and firms) lose out when we celebrate diversity

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January 9, 2020

At the beginning of October, Melinda Gates announced she would commit $1 billion in the fight for gender equality in the United States, and that one of her key priorities is to “mobilize shareholders” to put pressure on companies to improve diversity practices.

But do shareholders really value gender diversity? Research on the relationship between firm value and the appointment of women CEOs or directors has yielded mixed findings. At best, efforts to increase female representation have no impact on the firm’s market performance.

In some cases, however, shareholders will actually penalize firms for appointing women to senior leadership positions.

This seems counter-intuitive, given how much attention there has been in the press on stakeholders insisting that companies diversify their boards. Surely shareholders should be rewarding the companies that meet the challenge, not punishing them?

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Research Findings

What comes after the corporation?

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January 7, 2020

When we think about the power of business in our society, we tend to think about corporations. With rising income inequality in America and with record breaking levels of campaign contributions in each election cycle, it’s no surprise that large majorities of Americans feel corporations have too much power.

Strange as it may sound, corporate power is less concentrated in America than in the past: the number of corporations has actually fallen in the United States since the 1980s and they are no longer as large and integrated as they were in the Mad Men era (think of General Motors in its heyday).

In a recent paper, we highlight how the business elite are increasingly tied to non-corporate organizations like limited liability companies (LLCs) and limited partnerships (LPs). We find that families in the top 1% of the income distribution – especially white families and men in this elite stratum – disproportionately benefit from these organizations.

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Research Findings

Is health care the new manufacturing?

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January 2, 2020

In many – if not most – communities across the United States, large health systems have increasingly become centers of job growth and economic development. Many cities and towns have watched manufacturers leave their communities, often taking with them “good jobs” that used to be available to their working-class residents.

Health systems have now replaced manufacturers as leading employers in town, but what kinds of jobs does the health sector provide for the working-class? We know that the health sector provides high quality jobs for workers with advanced degrees, such as physicians, pharmacists, and administrators. But does the health care sector provide “good jobs” for men and women without a college degree?

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