by Nicole Deterding and David Pedulla

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of for-profit postsecondary institutions in the United States more than tripled, to over 1,100. This rapid rise of for-profit colleges and universities was a sweeping change in the U.S. higher education landscape, particularly for students seeking two-year degrees and employers wishing to hire college graduates without a bachelor’s degree.

Given this monumental change, how do employers evaluate credentials from new educational institutions?

Two recent field experiments have examined employer responses to for-profit and non-profit credentials. These studies sent experimentally manipulated job applications – randomly assigning applicants either a for-profit or non-profit degree – to apply for real job openings. Neither study found a measurable difference in employers’ responses to job candidates who report an associate’s degree in business from a for-profit institution compared to one with an associate’s from a nearby community college.

While this work offers convincing estimates of how employers respond to job applicants with associate’s degrees, it leaves open questions about why employers don’t appear to register a difference between these institution types.

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by Kevin T. Leicht

Sociology is at risk of losing what credibility it has because we have latched onto ways of studying inequality that are not suited to new economic arrangements.

What are those ways? They started as truths that now represent half-truths or worse – we just repeat them and think we’re doing something to produce insights into how inequality is produced and maintained.

We can’t end inequality by closing group gaps

Let’s start with the most basic of these habits and beliefs – The belief that most social inequality is tied to race and gender. Empirically this is not true and it hasn’t been for at least thirty years.

There is far more social inequality within demographic groups than there is between them.

There is overwhelming evidence to support this claim. The ratio of mean household income in the top 5 percent to the mean household income in the bottom 20 percent within racial groups has grown from 4 to1 to 11 to 1 from 1970 to 2014. Gini ratios – a common measure of income inequality – have increased uniformly for all racial/ethnic groups and converged. From 1970 to 2014 gender and racial gaps in income have been closing. Gender gaps have closed in part because men’s real earnings have fallen, not because women’s earnings have risen.

We can’t educate our way out of the inequality

But this isn’t the only bad habit we’ve fallen for. We’ve also been sucked into the myth that extreme inequality is mostly about educational opportunities.

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Frustrated_man_at_a_deskby Michael White and Deborah Smeaton

For at least 20 years the most valuable corporate asset has been in decline.   In survey after survey, experienced managers and professionals report lower job satisfaction and lower organizational commitment.

And this deterioration in job attitudes predicts more quits and reduced job performance.  This is the main message from recent British research comparing employees’ attitudes between 45-plus workers versus under-45s, from 1992 thru 2012.

Over that period British firms, like those in other Western economies, have had to change continuously to survive intense competition.  Not surprising, then, if older, experienced employees feel the heat.

Expecting a late-career payback for their loyal service, instead they have repeatedly faced demands for still greater efforts.

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by Eunmi Mun

Faced with a very low fertility rate and a rapidly aging population, Japan is on the brink of a population crisis.

As a result, utilizing female labor has become a new national goal. Among the three arrows of Abenomics—a set of economic reform policies proposed by current Prime Minister Abe—the third arrow focuses specifically on increasing women’s labor force participation and their representation in management positions.

Unfortunately, almost 60 percent of Japanese women still quit their jobs by the time they have their first child. Further, only 10 percent of managerial positions are currently held by women, and merely 1 percent of board directors of publicly-traded Japanese firms are women (see here for international comparison).

In the Global Gender Gap Report 2015, issued by the World Economic Forum, Japan was ranked 101 out of 145 countries for gender equality; even worse, it was ranked 116th for women’s representation as legislators, senior officials, and managers.

This should not be news to those familiar with contemporary Japanese society. It is well known that Japan has persistently shown workplace gender inequality.

What is less well known is how the large gap has been maintained over many decades, despite changes to legal, economic, and socio-political environments. My recently published research investigates this process over time.

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by Julia Chuang

Journalists frequently argue that the rise of global outsourcing has generated countless jobs for women in manufacturing, particularly in coastal China’s famed Special Economic Zones. For example, in a 2000 New York Times op-ed, journalist Nicholas Kristof described a trip he took to a factory in the boomtown of Dongguan. There, he wrote, factory girls “seemed to regard it as a plus that the factory allowed them to work long hours. Indeed, some had sought out this factory precisely because it offered them the chance to earn more.”

There are a lot of assumptions packed in this statement. It is true that wages we consider abominably low in the U.S. go a long way for young women in China. But this is a dangerous line of logic. Today, factory managers – and global investors, for that matter – regularly make the assumption that young women are not only wiling to work for less, they should work for less. They reason that these women are often single, not supporting children. If they do have children, managers assume, then they also have a husband who is the primary breadwinner.

Are these factory jobs good for young women, in terms of earnings, status, or household bargaining power? My view is that it takes a long time to know. In my article, I track factory women over various life course stages. First I interview young women working in a factory near Shenzhen. Then I move to a remote, inland village, where factory women, now slightly older, are returning home after years of wage-work.

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by Dale Tweedie

Why work?

One influential idea, especially in economics, is that we mainly put up with the pain work causes in exchange for wages. On this view, a key task of management is to ensure that workers don’t avoid or ‘shirk’ their tasks.

An opposing view is that working is itself a human ‘good’. For example, in work we might express our abilities or be connected with others. If this is right, management is not necessary to good work in the same way. Indeed, management might sometimes get in the way.

Our research explores which view was most plausible in cleaning work. Cleaners are an important test case because economists would anticipate that they have compelling reasons to ‘shirk’. Their work is arduous and absolutely necessary. Yet in a peculiar paradox, cleaning is lowly paid and socially stigmatized. Barbara Ehrenreich once described cleaners as ‘the untouchables of a supposedly caste-free and democratic society’.

However, not only did the cleaners we studied not ‘shirk’, they broke management rules that prevented them from doing a good quality job. This commitment to working well under unlikely conditions suggests that influential views about why people work, and about what management does, can be misleading.

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by Suhaib Riaz, Sean Buchanan and Trish Ruebottom

Reforming Wall Street has been a key issue in this presidential election cycle.

During the primaries, Bernie Sanders in particular used his rival’s close ties to the financial industry, including speaking fees and political donations, to suggest Hillary Clinton wouldn’t rein in Wall Street. At the same time, Sanders tried to highlight his own independence, declaring:

If I were elected president, the foxes would no longer guard the henhouse.

Clinton has tried to dispel the notion that Wall Street donations affect her judgment or independence, claiming her regulatory plan is actually tougher than Sanders’.

These exchanges underscore a crucial point: almost a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, the reforms that many Americans have demanded remain incomplete. Claims of independence, including by Republicans such as Donald Trump, are one way for candidates to suggest that they would be able to bring about real change.

But first we must understand this underlying dilemma: why has it been so difficult to reform Wall Street following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

This led us to a more fundamental question: whose voice matters most in determining how the financial industry should be run?

Given how much anger there still is at Wall Street, the answer may be surprising.

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