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Research Findings

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. 

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Research Findings

Teachers’ unions reduce gender pay gap among U.S. public school teachers


April 29, 2021

The gender pay gap has decreased substantially over the past decades in the U.S. However, women still earn 18% less than their male counterparts. Even after adjusting for basic pay-related factors, such as education, experience, industry, and occupation, women earn 91.6 cents for every dollar earned by comparable men.

Despite the fact that gender pay gaps have been well-documented, few studies have examined the earning difference by gender in the U.S. educational sector. This may be because one might expect to find gender parity in public schools, as most school districts use fixed salary schedules based on years of experience and educational attainment.

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Research Findings

Who gets to feel safe? In-person workers during the pandemic

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April 22, 2021

In-person workers have faced intense health and safety issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research examines in-person workers’ experiences on the job. Far from the early cries of COVID as the “great equalizer,” we find that in-person work during the pandemic has heightened the class, race, and gender inequalities that already permeate the workplace. 

We began surveying essential workers in Massachusetts at the start of the pandemic, as part of the COVID-19 Workplace Project run by the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts. Since July, we expanded the survey to include in-person workers from multiple states. We used paid Facebook advertisements to target in-person workers in specific geographic area. Each survey ran for one week. In total, we have conducted five surveys between April and December 2020, hearing from over 8,500 in-person workers. 

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Research Findings

A Devastated Brazil: How Bolsonaro has dismantled labor and environmental protections

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April 20, 2021

Burning forests, high rates of unemployment and informal labor are dramatic expressions of the environmental and social devastation plaguing Brazil since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. To blame is the Brazilian president’s radical program of neoliberalization aligned with support from a neofascist movement.

Between August 2018 and July 2019, nearly 200,000 fire outbreaks destroyed over 10,000 km2 of forested land area.

The most prominent was the infamous “Day of Fire” in the Amazon when farmers, loggers, and businessmen burned the region of Novo Progresso. Other fires in the Pantanal region alone accounted for a nearly 200% rise in fire outbreaks.

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Research Findings

How Undergraduate Internships Lead to Early Career Inequality and Misconceptions about College Majors


April 15, 2021

College graduates are struggling to find middle-class jobs at an historic rate. As recently as 2018, a third of college graduates were underemployed, and the overall unemployment rate for young people jumped to a high of 28% during the COVID pandemic, discouraging recent graduates who believed they would easily enter the labor market after graduation.

Participating in at least one undergraduate internship is a common strategy for college students to “maximize” their employment chances after graduation. At any given time there are over a million interns in the U.S. economy of which roughly a half are unpaid. Yet, we know relatively little about which internships are good for students and which are just short-term work where employers take advantage of students by assigning them limited tasks with little or no remuneration.

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Research Findings

On the destructive forces of the capitalist mode of production: Or, how to counter corporate violence with degrowth

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April 8, 2021

Corporations are the cogwheels in the machinery that makes up capitalism. By dragging peoples and environments into its mode of production, corporations satisfy their profit-hunger and disastrous growth-ambitions.

In our recent article we conceptualize the destructive forces of the capitalist mode of production as corporate violence. Corporate violence helps to showcase how organizations are inflicting violence as part of their routine operations, while pointing to the intricacies of how violence is structurally organized.

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Research Findings

Many Disadvantaged Asian Americans are Completing Bachelor’s and Graduate Degrees


April 1, 2021

Asian Americans have been averaging very high levels of education since the mid-20th century, with a much higher likelihood of completing college degrees than their similarly aged peers from other racial/ethnic groups. 

recent qualitative study conducted by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou argues that Asian Americans not only average high levels of education, but Asian Americans’ educational chances are also less hampered by having parents with low education levels than other racial/ethnic groups. 

This argument flies against traditional sociological arguments about education. Foundational social mobility theory contends that parents’ education is one of the strongest predictors of their children’s chances of obtaining a college degree or more. For example, first generation college students are much less likely to attend and complete college than their peers whose parents have a college degree. 

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Research Findings

Strong value organizations and their challenges

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March 25, 2021

The importance of values

The evidence is clear. People want to work for companies that are making a difference in the world, and this has important implications for the need for strong corporate values to attract and retain the best talent. At the same time, companies with strong values often find it challenging to change, because the values they are built on can get in the way of their ability to respond to changes in the environment. 

Generation Y (born in the 80s and 90s) and Generation Z (born in the late 90s and early 2000s) want to make the world a better place, and believe that business methods are the best way to do so at scale. They see business leaders having a deeper impact on society than religious or political leaders, and they desire organizations to shift from focusing narrowly on generating profit to balancing social and environmental concerns and making a more positive impact.

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Research Findings

Infectious Ideas: Why do Radical Innovations Take Root?


March 18, 2021

Living in the midst of a pandemic, we have all become familiar with the idea of contagion. An epidemic spreads through exposure to an infectious agent, like a novel virus. In a basic contagion model, the spread of a disease is a function of contact with the agent and its degree of infectiousness. Epidemiologists often model the risk of contagion as a function of contact (or frequency or level of contact) with the infected and the agent’s virulence.

When it comes to triggering radical institutional change, do ideas work the same way?

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Research Findings

Why the passion paradigm works


March 11, 2021

“You have to follow your heart and know that you can do whatever you want in life,” Nels, a free-lance graphic designer tells me.  “I’m trying to convince my kids that you don’t have to pick a job… You can create a life.”

Nels loves his work, but he is open to change. When I ask him what his professional goals are, he answers, “I don’t know what’s next. I could end up in another completely different industry. Whatever I end up in next, if there’s a next, it’s going to be with the same passion.” 

Nels believes that he has power over his career path, freedom in an undetermined future, and clarity in prioritizing work that he loves. These beliefs represent an ideology of work that I’ve coined the passion paradigm.

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