Archive

Research Findings

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by Kathryn Freeman Anderson

Many of us have now heard the pithy phrase: “Your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code.” But what is it about lines on a map that can be corrosive to your physical being?

I propose that part of understanding this observation is not just examining who the residents are and where people are located, but also where the “stuff” is located. We live in an organizational society. Community organizations and service providers play an important role in a community and can make or break a neighborhood. These include businesses, such as retail and restaurants, non-profit community organizations, such as churches and soccer leagues, and government services, such as social service offices and park spaces.

These are the locations where people access the goods and services that they need, where they work and play, and where they can meet up with other people in public spaces to chat, drink coffee, and hang out. These are the physical spaces that activate our social networks.

Yet, these important places are not evenly distributed across urban space. Some areas have an abundance of community organizations, while others are virtual organizational deserts.

That then begs the question: What types of communities have less “stuff” than other areas?

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by Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone

Last summer, Donald Trump shared how he hoped his daughter Ivanka might respond should she be sexually harassed at work. He said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.” President Trump’s advice reflects what many American women feel forced to do when they’re harassed at work: quit their jobs. In our recent Gender & Society article, we examine how sexual harassment, and the job disruption that often accompanies it, affects women’s careers.

How many women quit and why?  

Combining survey and interview data, our study shows how sexual harassment affects women at the early stages of their careers. Eighty percent of the women in our sample who reported either unwanted touching or a combination of other forms of harassment changed jobs within two years. Among women who were not harassed, only about half changed jobs over the same period. In our statistical models, women who were harassed were 6.5 times more likely than those who were not to change jobs. This was true after accounting for other factors – such as the birth of a child – that sometimes lead to job change. In addition to job change, industry change and reduced work hours were common after harassing experiences.

Percent of working women who change jobs (2003–2005)

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In interviews with a subset of these survey participants, we learned more about how sexual harassment affects employees. While some women quit work to avoid their harassers, others quit because of dissatisfaction with how employers responded to their reports of harassment. Rachel, who worked at a fast food restaurant, told us that she was “just totally disgusted and I quit” after her employer failed to take action until they found out she had consulted an attorney. Many women who were harassed told us that leaving their positions felt like the only way to escape a toxic workplace climate. As advertising agency employee Hannah explained, “It wouldn’t be worth me trying to spend all my energy to change that culture.”

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by Paula McDonald

Changing gender relations have meant that young people increasingly expect to share paid work and care in their relationships. Yet there is continued evidence of ‘gender fates’. This can be seen in fewer girls than boys choosing STEM subjects at school, the dominance of men in trades occupations and women working in early childhood education, the predominance of women choosing to work part-time hours, and persistent sex discrimination in the workplace.

How can this divergence between young people’s aspirations for gender equality, and the reality of the gendered status quo, be explained? My recent study, which comprised 123 interviews with young Australians aged between 16 and 26, sheds light on this issue. It suggests that the way men and women negotiate their respective roles at the household level is key to understanding why the dynamics of work and care over the life course have been slow to change.

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by Brooke Harrington

The story of financialization, as told by sociologists, has been the story of firms. Corporate structures and wealth have put investors at the forefront of the global political economy since the 1970s. The rise of the investor has radically transformed our world, increasing inequality and shifting the balance of power in ways that benefit rentier finance over nearly everyone and everything else.

This account, I argue, is persuasive but incomplete. Among other things, it leaves out another key player in the story of financialization: the trust. Trusts are asset-holding structures that are widely used to preserve private wealth and make complex commercial arrangements—like mutual funds, bond issues, and asset securitization—possible.  In a recent article in Socio-Economic Review, I make the case that trusts have to be considered as co-stars in the financialization story—and sometimes as competitors for the leading role.

In several key domains of finance, trusts dominate, yet they are little known outside the practice of corporate finance or the circles of the ultra-rich (the main creators and beneficiaries of private trusts). Trusts have played a key role in significant political and economic events of recent years, from the Panama Papers to the subprime mortgage crisis, but they have received virtually no interest from researchers in sociology.

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by Sarah E. Patterson and Sarah Damaske

In 2013, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg directed women to “lean in” at work by taking individual initiative to move into leadership positions. While Sandberg acknowledges that women are behind men in terms of promotion and pay, she suggested these gender differences could be explained primarily by the choices women were making at work. Sociologists have long been skeptical of such an individual framing, as we were.

In the study described here, we seek to understand the primary factors driving gender differences among MBA graduates, asking: do women’s and men’s pathways diverge following completion of the MBA program? If so, how and why do they diverge?

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by Dirk Witteveen and Paul Attewell

As enrollments in the American secondary and post-secondary school system grew throughout the 20th century, so did the meritocratic ideal of social mobility. Most people came to believe that stable employment can be secured through hard work in school and by obtaining educational credentials – and to a large extent, this holds true. Both school performance and educational attainment are positively and strongly associated with better, safer, and higher-paying jobs. The more education, the better.

But meritocracy makes another promise: educational diplomas could erase the effect of parental class background on their offspring’s destiny in the labor market. Popular culture celebrates the idea that no matter what your parents do, graduating from college is your ticket into the middle class. So, the American higher educational system is proclaimed the “Great Equalizer,” with the bachelor’s degree as the ultimate vehicle for upward mobility.

Some sociological research published since the 1980s has confirmed that a college degree fulfills this promise, leading scholars to state that the chances of achieving economic success are independent of social background among those who attain a BA. In our study, recently published in Social Forces, we present analyses that challenge this upbeat conclusion.

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Yilmaz & Ledwith

by Gaye Yilmaz and Sue Ledwith

Migrating women may escape conflict, war, poverty, family pressures and responsibilities, and fear of sexual oppression. But they also find themselves caught between the twin ideologies of patriarchy and religion.

This was the case for the 120 women migrants we interviewed for our book, Migration and Domestic Work. All are now domestic workers in London, Berlin or Istanbul. Most were either Muslim or Christian with a handful who were Buddhist, Hindu or Pagan. Twenty atheists had come to disbelief from the two main religions.

These women’s migration decisions, their domestic and working lives, the possibilities for collective solidarity and for joining trade unions, were all influenced by patriarchical gender ideology. When combined with their religion, these pressures were difficult to resist. They were also policed across continents by family: ‘My parents very often phone and check whether I am going to church or fulfill my religious obligations.’

Few of the women in our study positively sought to be a migrant. Yesterday’s refugee is today’s migrant. Regardless of their dreams of a better life, they all finished up far from home, as domestic workers.

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