Most popular discourse on “returns to college” tends to assume—implicitly or explicitly—that adult class location is largely a result of individual earnings that flow from investments in education.
Recently, we published a qualitative longitudinal study of social mobility among a cohort of college-educated white women in the American Journal of Sociology. We followed 45 women who started college on the same residence hall at a flagship public university for 12 years, with a final wave of data collection at age 30.
We show that social class location over time was “sticky,” in that both upward and downward mobility were limited. The heavy hand of social class in shaping both marital patterns and the transfer of wealth accounts for the persistence of class position across generations.
Strikes at Kaiser Permanente, John Deere, and Kellogg’s have brought renewed attention to workers’ clout when they organize unions. Collective bargaining agreements can convert wage gains from a temporarily tight labor market into durable gains for workers. As a result, U.S. employers often pull out all the stops to defeat new union organizing drives. Many employers bet that it’s better to break the law and keep workers from getting a union than to be stuck with collective bargaining for years to come.
Historically, one powerful way that employers have kept unions out is by avoiding hiring union supporters in the first place. If an employer can systematically weed out applications from “bad apples” and pro-union malcontents, then the risk of a successful future organizing drive is mitigated. For example, a case study of hiring in a 1990s foreign auto plant found that managers avoided workers with prior auto experience, because that meant prior employment at the unionized Big Three American automakers. No auto experience, no union problem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in unpaid care work, with increased childcare and housework burdens disproportionately borne by women. Across Europe and North America, women have been pushed out of the labor market, while mothers are increasingly suffering from stress and burnout.
Social policy might be able to reverse these trends – and the Carework Network has been urging the Biden-Harris administration to take decisive action now and reinvest in care infrastructure to “build back better”. Similar campaigns have been launched internationally, including in Canada and the UK.
But what can data tell us about the potential for welfare programs to address the gender gap in unpaid care work?
In our recent article in Gender & Society, we quantify the connections between social policy spending and inequality amongst unpaid care workers across 29 European countries.
Although many studies have shown that inequalities have widened in many ways ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the discussion has focused on objective measures, such as numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, access to healthcare and medical treatment, or unemployment/poverty. Less attention has been paid to inequality consequences in connection with subjective experience.
Objectively, studies have shown that chances of physical as well as economic survival are not evenly distributed across class, racial and ethnic groups, as well as residential areas and regions, with the disadvantaged vulnerable to more severe consequences. Subjectively, however, it is unclear whether disadvantaged population groups also bear more psychological burdens.
Gentrification—the socioeconomic upgrading of previously low-income neighborhoods—has spread to more cities and more neighborhoods over the last two decades. It has increasingly ignited opposition around how it displaces poor residents out of their once-neglected neighborhoods.
But research has consistently found that this isn’t the case.
Nearly all studies, including our own, that track poor residents living in gentrifying neighborhoods find that they do not move out of their neighborhoods—in general or involuntarily—substantially more than those living in low-income neighborhoods that don’t gentrify. Instead, most of the demographic changes in the neighborhood are due to the changing demographics of who is moving into neighborhoods rather than who is moving out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
Over the last decade, consumer-driven health care elevated customer satisfaction to be the central mission of hospital care. Satisfaction surveys and hotel-style amenities rose hand-in-hand to become central features of U.S. hospitals. This trend has done more harm than good. It focuses everyone’s attention on front-stage aspects of health care over what matters most to patients: excellent medical treatment.
As I discovered in a recent study published in Social Forces with my colleague Xinxiang Chen, satisfaction scores are driven by room and board hospitality, rather than medical quality or patient survival rates. Moreover, when hospitals face greater competition from other facilities, there is higher patient satisfaction, but lower medical quality.