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by Paula McDonald, Paul Thompson and Peter O’Connor

A new study has revealed that 27% of employees have witnessed their employer using online information to ‘profile’ job applicants. Approximately 55% of organisations now have a policy outlining how profiling can and should be used as an organisational strategy.

Despite its increased practice however, most employees are not comfortable with being profiled. Over 60% believe they have a right to a private online identity that should not be accessed by employers. But only 40% of those surveyed reported they manage their social media activities with their current employer in mind.

What is profiling?

Most of us have probably ‘googled’ someone to find information about them. Perhaps we searched for information on a potential flatmate, a new colleague, or even a new boss. With the aid of an internet search engine, we can easily learn important details about people (e.g., their appearance, lifestyle choices, professional affiliations) before we meet them. Perhaps more controversially, employers can learn whether they seem like the ‘right’ kind of person to hire? This is known as profiling: the collection of online information for the purpose of monitoring and evaluating current and future employees.

The practice of profiling is not without controversy, with recent commentaries questioning the legitimacy of the practice. In particular, although personal information is publicly available, some have objected to its use based on employees’ rights to a private identity. In other words, there is some question as to whether profiling employees is a legitimate practice or whether it oversteps the boundaries of privacy.

To investigate this question from the perspective of employees, we conducted a survey study of 2000 employees across a range of occupational groups in Australia and the UK. We used this sample to determine the extent of profiling, the outcomes of profiling and the attitudes of employees towards profiling. We also looked at whether profiling depended on industry and profession and how often organisations defined the parameters of profiling in their policies.

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by Philip Cohen

Over the last few years I have frequently complained about our publishing system (see the academia tag on my blog for examples): it’s needlessly slow, inefficient, hierarchical, profit-driven, exploitative, and also doesn’t work well. Here’s a simple example: a junior scholar sends a perfectly reasonable sociology paper to a high-status journal. The editor commissions three anonymous reviews, and four months later the paper is rejected on the basis of a few hours of their volunteer labor. It’s not that the paper is wrong, but that its results are not novel enough, and it doesn’t break new theoretical ground – it’s just a piece of research – and doesn’t justify taking up scarce pages in the journal’s budget.

This rejection increases the value — and subscription price — of the for-profit journal (or journal published by a for-profit company on behalf of an academic association), because their high rejection rate is a key selling point.

The author will now revise the paper (some of the advice was good, but nothing to suggest the analysis or conclusions were actually wrong) and send it to another journal, where three more anonymous reviewers — probably different people, and having no access to the previous round of review and exchange — will donate a few more hours labor, each, to a different for-profit publisher. In a few months we’ll find out what happens. Repeat.

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by Allison J. Pugh

Income inequality is a major focus in today’s national agenda.  From the White House to the campaign trail to the halls of Davos, political and economic elites are joining a public conversation about the vast disparities between the top and bottom of the economic ladder.

But these conversations about income inequality lack one crucial focus:  job insecurity.

For lower income workers, studies indicate that knowing you’ll have a job next week is as important as the size of the paycheck that’s coming.  My own research shows that the impact of job insecurity extends beyond the individual worker or the workplace, and is felt at home, by spouses, parents, children and others.  The withdrawal of employer commitment raises the salience of commitment in all aspects of life.

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by David S. Pedulla

Most of us have family members, friends, or acquaintances that have experienced unemployment. It can be a brutal experience, economically, socially, and psychologically. A large body of academic research backs this up. There are far-reaching consequences of being unemployed. These effects span many domains of life, from health, to family dynamics, to psychological wellbeing. There is also evidence that unemployment can lead to lower earnings down the road.

Following on this line of research, a recent body of scholarship has asked whether there is also a direct effect of unemployment on being able to get a new job. In other words, do employers screen out job applicants who are unemployed in favor those who are currently working?

In general, the answer appears to be “yes.”

To investigate this issue, separate teams of researchers in the United States and Sweden sent fake job applications to apply for real job openings and randomly assigned some of those job applications an employment gap: a spell of unemployment. The studies found that employers tended to pass over the unemployed applicants in favor of applicants who were employed. The effects were strongest for longer-term unemployment (rather than short periods without a job) and current spells of unemployment (rather than unemployment in the past).

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by Alexandra Killewald

Through the second half of the 20th century, American women participated in the labor force at increasing rates. Divorce rates also rose rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, raising concerns that the trends were related: perhaps marriages became less stable because women were no longer dependent on men for their financial well-being.

But women’s economic independence from their husbands isn’t the only way that money, work, and divorce could be associated. Another possibility is that couples who have few financial resources are more likely to divorce, maybe because they argue more about how to spend those limited resources.

Yet another possibility is that divorce is more likely when spouses don’t fulfill what’s socially expected of husbands or wives. Those expectations might include that the husband is employed full-time or that the wife takes primary responsibility for housework. In this case, it isn’t money itself that affects the risk of divorce, but the work spouses do, both in the labor force and at home.

In a recently published study, I tested these theories and whether the predictors of divorce had changed over time for American couples. In particular, I wondered whether American couples had become more accepting of wives’ employment and of couples sharing responsibility for housework, so that these behaviors no longer increased the risk of divorce.

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by Kristen Myers

Fox News in Chicago recently invited me to do a Father’s Day segment during the noon news hour explaining how “Dads today are better than ever!” Aiming for a feel-good piece celebrating dads, they prompted me to talk about how “real men” cuddle with their children. On the one hand, I cringed at the use of the term, “real men.” What is a “real man?” Although sociologists have shown that there is no one right way to be a man, the notion of “real” manhood remains salient in the popular imagination. The expression, “real men do x,” is typically used to call men out, to shame those who don’t do x into “manning up.” The popularity of language like “real men man up” reminds us that the rules we’ve made for men haven’t actually relaxed all that much, even though some dads are able to interact with their children in ways that their own dads never could have.

On the other hand, Fox News was using the expression “real men cuddle” ironically, to encourage traditional men to do something non-traditional, like show emotion. This gave me an opportunity to focus on ways that men can do things differently than they have in the past, how they’re “undoing gender,” as Francine Deutsch would say. More men today are able to physically and emotionally bond with their children without risking a blow to their manhood. The Pew Research Center has documented trends in the work world and the household that are permitting dads to be more involved than ever in childrearing and housework.The time is ripe for men, no matter how traditional, to take advantage of these shifts. Sometimes these men must be pushed out of their comfort zones in order to take the first steps.

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by Crosby Hipes

Approximately one quarter of Americans suffer from a mental illness at any given time, with half of the country experiencing mental illness over the course of their lifetimes. People with mental illness can face devaluation and discrimination simply for having an illness with a negative label, which is known as the stigma of mental illness. Although some might assume that a person’s education, skills, and training are the primary factors determining their employment success, our study suggests otherwise.

In a recently published study, we found that even for job applicants with competitive resumes, having a mental illness label lowered employment chances relative to job applicants with a past physical injury.

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