Socioeconomic Inequality and Work

Although demographers have not always examined socioeconomic inequality as a population problem, rapidly increasingly inequality in income and assets is one of the most critical problems facing the U.S. population, with current levels exceeding those of any other advanced, developed nation. In contrast to previous eras, however, inequality today is more highly associated with salary differentials deriving from work and labor market stratification rather than being primarily determined by the ownership of capital assets.  PRC researchers are making significant contributions in two key areas: (1) how new forms of work facilitate or retard growing earnings inequality between workers, and (2) how best to theorize and measure the processes leading to gender, race/ethnic and other group differentials in earnings and job quality.  The rise in American inequality correlates with two interrelated processes -- (1) globalization and technological change in the production of goods and services in an increasingly integrated global economy, and (2) changes in organizational practices and new forms of work that have emerged from these technological advances and competitive pressures. Yet, not much is well understood about the dynamics of these processes, how they contribute to inequality and for whom, and how they might be altered by public policy or behavioral changes to generate more positive outcomes for American society. This thematic area aims to critically address the shortage of theoretical paradigms and empirical work in this area.  Center researchers are focusing on the impact of new organizational forms and practices on gender and race/ethnic inequality in the labor market, the incorporation of new waves of immigrants into the labor market, and the relevance of training and career preparation strategies for disadvantaged workers. All of these processes either directly or indirectly relate to fertility, health and mortality and migration patterns, so researchers increasingly need to incorporate these socioeconomic variables into their analyses into to better understand the causes and consequences of fundamental demographic processes.