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Research Findings

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by April Sutton, Amanda Bosky and Chandra Muller

What should schools teach our nation’s youth? What type of training best prepares all students for labor market success? These questions have fueled contentious academic, political, and public debates for over a century.

While some argue that schools should prepare all students for a college degree, others advocate for a re-emphasis on career and technical training, especially in better-paying blue-collar jobs.

In the policy realm, states in the Rust Belt and Southeast have relaxed academic graduation requirements. Some states allow blue-collar-related training to satisfy math and foreign language requirements. Moreover, alongside his promises to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, President Trump and members of his cabinet have pledged to strengthen career and technical education, dismantle Common Core, and allow local decision-makers to govern what schools teach.

Gender gaps and economic opportunities for women have been glaringly absent from this discourse. This is disconcerting given that blue-collar jobs—some of the few remaining sub-baccalaureate jobs that provide living wages—are highly male-dominated.

What’s more, our estimates show that the small share of millennial women employed in blue-collar jobs earn wages that are only 78% those of their male counterparts.

In a recently published article, we add a gender and spatial perspective to reinvigorated high school training debates.

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working-class-whites-article-feature-imageby Kieran Bezila

One of the puzzles of contemporary voting behavior is why working class voters do not reliably vote for parties of the left that support redistributive measures that would directly benefit them. For example, as Figure 1 shows, one-third to one-half of the American white working class votes Republican, and this is true whether one defines working class by income, education, a combination of the two, or subjective self-identification (the data from the latest election are not yet available).  A common explanation, that moral or cultural values (such as attitudes on immigration, abortion, race, etc.) trump economic concerns, has been the subject of much debate among scholars, without a clear resolution. The vast majority of empirical work done on this question has drawn on survey data.

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White working class support for Republicans

In new research, we provide a new direction for this debate by changing methods and offering a new argument.

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by Hana Brown

Each new wave of immigration to the United States has raised questions about whether immigrants will integrate into American society or undermine its core values. Public fears abound, but experts paint an optimistic portrait of immigrant adaptation. The available evidence suggests that incorporation proceeds apace, but that immigration integration trends are patterned by factors like geography, public policies, and legal status.

In a recent study, I identify another factor that influences immigrant incorporation: the physical body. I find that immigrants’ ability to incorporate economically and socially depends in part on their ability to incorporate bodily. That is, it depends on their ability to retrain their bodies to perform the kinds of physical movements required for full membership in the host society.

From a young age, individuals around the world learn how to perform the physical movements expected by their society. In the United States, children’s toys teach them to perform fine motors movements like pushing buttons on a telephone or tapping a keyboard with the appropriate level of force. These toys aren’t merely for entertainment. They teach children to perform the physical actions required to access the most influential institutions around them.

These socialized movements are so ingrained that we hardly notice them. But when people move between societies with radically different embodied expectations, the physical body can pose a real struggle in the adaptation process. This is precisely the situation in which the immigrants I studied found themselves.

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by Paula England, Jonathan Bearak, Michelle J. Budig, and Melissa J. Hodges

Most American moms go back to work after having a baby—sometimes almost immediately, sometimes after some hiatus. In the years after they have given birth, employed women suffer what sociologists call a “motherhood wage penalty.”

That is, their pay when working in the years after having the baby is lower than it would have been if they hadn’t had a baby. This is partly because they miss any raises or promotions they would have gotten during the period they were out of work. Another reason for the penalty is that some employers discriminate against mothers, treating them worse than they treat other women in hiring, pay, or promotion.

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by Mariana Craciun

“I think people have all sorts of fantasies … that [psycho]analysts have certain … special capacities to … see through [them].” – Adam, psychoanalytic therapist

That professions no longer enjoy the relatively uncontested authority they had during much of the twentieth century is no surprise. Medicine has received sustained attention in this regard. Physicians have seen their power threatened as their financial ties to patients are overwhelmingly mediated by third-party payers, while their work diagnosing, treating, and researching disease is increasingly shaped by patients themselves.

In medicine, as in other professional realms, internet-based knowledge-sharing has made it easier for potential clients to attempt to diagnose and solve problems themselves rather than rely on expert “opinion.”

These challenges are shared by practitioners of psychoanalytic therapy, but further exacerbated by their own slippage within the field of mental health. Over the last forty years, psychoanalysis has been progressively displaced from its dominant place. U.S. psychiatry has been challenged by psychopharmacology, alternative talk, and behavioral interventions.

Yet, despite these challenges—and arguably even because of them—psychoanalytic therapists continue to perform and enjoy a level of charismatic authority sometimes assumed to have existed only during the community’s beginnings.

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4241390495_e0a928ccf0_oby Peter Ikeler

Many observers lament the bloated size of low-wage service employment in the U.S. They contrast high levels of precarity and minimal wages and benefits in retail, restaurant and personal services unfavorably with past standards in manufacturing, even if contemporary manufacturing has few of these traits.

Underlying such contrasts is often the assumption that frontline service jobs, since most don’t require a college degree, are low-skill. But is this, in fact, true? And how are their skill requirements changing?

In a recent study, I interrogated these questions and related ones about worker consciousness and organizing.

I honed in on Macy’s and Target, two iconic firms in the department store sector which is the largest division of the America’s largest low-wage service industry. I interviewed sixty-two workers from five stores in New York City.

What emerged were two key lessons: For one thing, not all service jobs are low skill. In fact, many Macy’s sales jobs require considerable knowledge, complexity and interpersonal know-how.

Second, the general trend in the department store sector is deskilling. Comparing Macy’s and Target as representatives of the full-line and discount models, there is undeniable simplification and routinization of salespersons’ tasks, with a related decline in their daily autonomy.

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by Gretchen Purser and Brian Hennigan

The passage of welfare reform in 1996 reshaped the principles and practices of poverty management in the U.S. Most notably, it brought about an end to welfare as an entitlement and imposed rigid time limits, work requirements, and a programmatic focus on “job-readiness.”

Less well known is the fact that welfare reform also decentralized and privatized welfare delivery, opening the door for faith-based organizations to play a more formal and zealous role in the delivery of social services as well as the moral tutelage of the poor.

This two-fisted overhaul of social policy was not a happenstance conjuncture. Rather, it reflects the ascendance of what Jason Hackworth, in his 2012 book Faith-Based, calls religious neoliberalism: the “ideological fusion” between conservative evangelicals and neoliberal politicians that calls for the shrinking and privatization of the welfare state while promoting the faith-based sector as its ideal replacement.

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