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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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by Ho-fung Hung

Milton Friedman passed away in 2006, but his monetarist theory and his neoliberal advocacy of the free market and small government is far from dead. It is still haunting us like a zombie, tying governments’ hands in bringing progressive policies that could stimulate economic growth, promote social equity, and improve working families’ livelihoods.

In a recently published article, fellow sociologist Daniel Thompson and I show that Friedman’s monetarist theory does not stand up to empirical testing. Neoliberal policies worldwide, as justified by the monetarist theory, are grounded more on paranoia about inflation than on solid intellectual foundation.

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by Erin A. Cech 

Despite growing support for gender parity in the workforce, many occupations still continue to be comprised of mostly men or mostly women. Because women-dominated occupations tend to be accompanied by less pay and prestige, the persistence of occupational gender segregation in the U.S. labor market helps reinforce gender inequality more broadly.

A number of prominent theories in the social sciences have attempted to explain the endurance of this segregation by pointing to the work-family nexus. Many such theories assert that women who plan to have children incorporate anticipated caregiving responsibilities into their initial selection of occupations, tending to choose women-dominated fields assumed to be more flexible than men-dominated fields.

Men who anticipate families, on the other hand, choose men-dominated fields assumed to maximize lifetime earnings and be conducive to a provider role.

This “family plans thesis” has traction in public discourse about the “opt-out revolution”, the “planning generation,” and whether women can really “have it all.” Threaded through these arguments are assumptions about men’s and women’s “biological realities” which make such choices appear natural and inevitable.

But, do young men and women who plan to have families actually adjust their occupational decisions to accommodate those plans? And, does this funnel women and men into gender-typical occupations?

Drawing on in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of 100 students (56 women, 44 men) enrolled at three universities, my findings are widely inconsistent with the family plans thesis.

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by Janette Dill, Kim Price-Glynn and Carter Rakovski

It is well documented that occupations that involve paid care work – work that contributes to the physical, mental, social, and/or emotional well-being of others and whose primary labor process involves face-to-face relationships with those they care for – are devalued in comparison to occupations that do not involve care work.

In other words, care workers earn lower wages as compared to other workers when we take into account other work-related factors, such as education and work experience.

Most care work occupations are feminized occupations, meaning that the majority of workers in these occupations are women. In some common care work occupations, such as home health aides or nursing assistants, women make up as much as 95% of the workforce.

Feminized occupations typically pay less than occupations where the workforce is predominately male, but feminized care work occupations are devalued to an even greater extent.

Few men choose to work in care work occupations, but there is some evidence that more men are entering these fields as we transition away from a manufacturing economy and male-dominated jobs become less available and of lower quality. What happens to men that enter care work occupations? Do they experience a wage penalty?

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by Kim Pernell-Gallagher

In the aftermath of the credit crisis of 2007-2008, the complex financial instrument known as the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) became both a household name and a dirty word.

In the years leading up to the crisis, America’s largest and most systemically important financial institutions developed heavy exposure to CDOs, often by serving as the underwriters of these financial instruments. When the CDO market collapsed in 2008, many of these institutions were forced to take massive write-downs. The losses banks experienced on their CDO portfolios played a major role in bringing about the credit crisis and the Great Recession.

Why, then, did banks underwrite CDOs, an activity that ended up getting them (and the global economy) into so much trouble?

At first glance, the reasons may seem obvious: banks underwrote CDOs because they are competitive, profit-seeking organizations, and they saw that CDOs offered financial rewards. But explanations like these raise more questions than they answer. How did banks come to determine that CDO underwriting was valuable? What kind of information captured their attention?

In a recently published study, I addressed these questions by exploring how 268 U.S. investment and commercial banks responded to the CDO underwriting behavior of their peers, focusing on the years leading up to the credit crisis (1996-2007).

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by Alex J Wood

‘I had to change hours. . . I felt really sick, it just hit me, it hit all of us.’ These are the words that Colin used to describe the painful reality of workplace temporal flexibility for many workers. And it is an experience which is becoming increasingly common.

In the US, economists Lonnie Golden found that 28% of workers report having schedules with variable start and end times. A similar situation exists in Europe where around 35% of workers report facing changes in their work schedule.

The growth of flexible scheduling has caused significant public debate in UK. In particular, the growth of zero hour contracts, a form of employment which does not guarantee any hours of work, figured prominently in the 2015 general election. Labour party leader Ed Miliband coined the term ‘zero-zero Britain’ to highlight the unfairness of a ‘recovery’ in which the ‘rich paid zero tax while the poor received zero hours contracts’.

In response to such criticism the UK government drew upon think tank research to argue that such flexible scheduling was actually a good for workers, enabling them to ‘flex their work… [and thus be] more satisfied with their work life balance.’

In a recently published ethnographic study, I sought to evaluate whether such flexible employment could truly be considered beneficial for work-life balance.

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by Joyce Jiang

Migrant workers are an important part of the labour force in many contemporary economies. In the UK, it is estimated that 15.2 percent of the labour force were foreign-born migrants in 2013.

Migrant workers in the UK are largely concentrated in low-skilled sectors that involve high levels of exploitation. They constitute the worker group who are in considerable need of collective representation. However, the industrial sectors where they are concentrated have low rates of unionisation.

Given these points, the potential for collective mobilisation among migrant workers in the UK is an issue of considerable importance.

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