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Research Findings

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by Liana Christin Landivar

Casual conversations and news articles are full of stories about overworked Americans who no longer clock in for the mythical 9-to-5. From working late nights at the office or at home after the kids have gone to bed or taking work on vacation, people feel like they are working 24/7.

Accounts of the lengthening workweek and time intensification resonate with workers who may feel greater time pressure and stress. Long hours are detrimental to work-life balance and research shows that long work-hour expectations push mothers out of the labor force.

Yet the evidence shows that work hours have not increased. Since the early 2000s, work hours have declined broadly across all occupational groups, and the share of men and women working full-time is at its lowest point since 1970. The work-hour decline predates the Great Recession and is not solely attributable to an increase in part-time work.

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by Lisa Wade

The average man thinks he’s smarter than the average woman. And women generally agree.

It starts early. At the age of five, most girls and boys think that their own sex is the smartest, a finding consistent with the idea that people tend to think more highly of people like themselves. Around age six, though, right when gender stereotypes tend to take hold among children, girls start reporting that they think boys are smarter, while boys continue to favor themselves and their male peers.

They may have learned this from their parents. Both mothers and fathers tend to think that their sons are smarter than their daughters. They’re more likely to ask Google if their son is a “genius” (though also whether they’re “stupid”). Regarding their daughters, they’re more likely to inquire about attractiveness.

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by Alexandra Killewald and Ian Lundberg

On average, in the United States, men earn more per hour when married than when single, even after adjusting for differences such as age and education. However, despite the suggestive evidence that marriage may exert a causal effect on men’s wages, we argue that closer inspection reveals little evidence of such a link.

Why might marriage increase men’s wages?

A prominent theory, originally advanced by Nobel prize-winning economist Gary Becker argues that couples tend to divide labor, with husbands specializing in paid work and wives in housework and child care. According to this theory, husbands can invest more time and effort in paid employment because they are freed from housework, thereby becoming more productive and earning higher wages. Prior tests of this theory by Hersch and Stratton and Pollmann-Schult, however, suggest that the division of labor within the household is not a satisfactory explanation. For one thing, men’s wages do not suddenly improve following marriage: men’s rapid wage growth begins before the marriage date and before the couple is living together, when it is implausible that men are already benefiting from a household division of labor.

Nevertheless, marriage might lead to wage growth for men for other reasons. One possibility is that it exerts a “settling down” effect on men that pays dividends at work. Marriage might also motivate men to seek higher-wage jobs in order to provide financially for their new family. While marriage licenses are signed on a specific day, relationships culminating in marriage typically develop over several years. If marital relationships induce men to behave in ways that increase their wages, unusually rapid increases in men’s wages prior to marriage may indicate that men begin to adjust their behavior in anticipation of marriage.

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LIESby Sarah Jenkins and Rick Delbridge

A number of corporate scandals—Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, and Enron for example—have emerged in recent years which have brought into focus the ethical practices of organizations.  Questions are asked regarding the extent to which deception is endemic in contemporary business life. Yet little is known about how organizations support and promote lying.

How do organizations enlist their employees to lie for a living?  How do employees respond when lying is part of their job?

These questions became relevant when we studied an organization – VoiceTel (a pseudonym) – which provided virtual reception services to a number of organizations throughout the UK.  The in-depth study into VoiceTel provides a rare opportunity to examine lying that is an integral and intrinsic feature of work rather than being selective, intermittent and associated with a specific occupational group.

Deception was a cornerstone of the VoiceTel’s business from its start and key to its ongoing success. To deliver a high quality professional service, employees were required to conceal that they were not physically located in their clients’ premises and never disclose to their customers that they actually worked for an out-sourced reception provider.

How did the organization ensure receptionists abided by this requirement? How did employees feel about lying as an intrinsic part of their job?

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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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