Socioeconomic Inequality and Work

Area Projects

The Organizational Context of Employment Scarring

Principal Investigator: David Pedulla
Funded By: University of California-Davis

Recent research has demonstrated that histories of long-term unemployment and non-standard employment – part-time work, temporary agency employment, and skills underemployment – can have a direct negative effect on workers’ future labor market opportunities. Given the important role that employment can play in protecting individuals and their families from material hardship, these emerging findings are of particular concern to scholars and policymakers interested in reducing poverty. Yet, while spells of unemployment and non-standard work have been shown to limit a worker’s ability to obtain future employment, little is know about the organizational-level forces that shape these trajectories. What factors make some employers, but not others, willing to hire workers with histories of unemployment or non-standard employment? This project seeks to make inroads into this gap in the literature by merging company-level data with evidence from an original experimental audit study of job openings previously conducted by the author. Combining detailed information from the ReferenceUSA database about the companies in the audit study, analysis of the text of the job postings to which applications were submitted in the audit study, and “callback” (i.e., positive employer response) data from the audit study, I will examine whether organizational context – such as firm size, sector, financial standing, and organizational demography – matters in shaping the scarring effects of long-term unemployment and non-standard employment. Findings from this research will provide insights into potential interventions that can mitigate the employment challenges faced by job seekers with scarred employment histories, in turn reducing the likelihood that they will experience poverty.

Race, Gender, and the Supply-side Dynamics of Labor Market Placement

Principal Investigator: David Pedulla
Funded By: Russel Sage Foundation

This proposal is to issue a subcontract for pieces of the research that are part of the grant titled, “Race, Gender, and the Supply-Side Dynamics of Labor Market Placement.”  Statement of Work:  The data collection phase of this project is coming to an end and we will begin the analysis and writing process in the coming months. There is significant work necessary to clean, code, merge, and analyze the multiple waves of survey data that we have collected. The goal by the end of the summer is to have the data cleaned, coded, and merged as well as the analysis completed for the first paper we will produce from this project.

Feasibility Study for Development of Civic Engagement from Adolescence to Midlife

Principal Investigator: Chandra Muller
Funded by: Spencer Foundation

This study will assess the feasibility and utility of attaching recent voting records to the recently collected identifiers from the High School and Beyond (HS&B) 2014 sophomore cohort follow-up study. HS&B provided the empirical foundation for Coleman’s (1988) conceptualization of social capital and for understanding Catholic school effects (e.g., Bryk, Lee and Holland 1993; Coleman and Hoffer 1987), and the cohort benchmarks a crucial period in our nation’s history. Sophomore cohort sample members were mostly born in 1964-­‐1965, at the end of the Baby Boom. They are in the first post-­‐Civil Rights generation and transitioned to college during the expansion of affirmative action admissions policies. The HS&B cohort is more racially and ethnically diverse than earlier contemporary cohorts, and the immigrants are of color, in contrast to previous waves of immigrants, in part because they came of age after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (the Hart-­‐Celler Act). The HS&B sample members grew up when our schools and communities were becoming desegregated, and they now face retirement under conditions of substantial socioeconomic inequality. As our population is becoming more diverse and inequality is increasing, understanding the mechanisms through which the high schools impact adolescents during this formative period in ways that extend to long range civic engagement is a priority.

Family Instability and Exposure to Violence in Childhood and Adolescence

Principal Investigator: Robert Crosnoe; Co-Principal Investigator: Shannon Cavanagh
Funded by: National Institute of Justice

Two contemporary social trends in the U.S.—the growing instability in children’s family structures, the continuing exposure of many children to violence in their homes and neighborhoods—are each the subject of significant attention from researchers, policymakers, and the public at large. Yet, they are rarely connected to each other in empirical research, even though such research can expand understanding of why family instability is a source of inequality, elucidate the etiology of violence and its deleterious effects on young people, and shed light on the ramifications of other potential social crises (e.g., the effects of mass incarceration on families, growing inequality by race and social class). The purpose of this proposed project is to leverage extant data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) and federal data bases (e.g., U.S. Census) to examine the degree to which past and contemporaneous family structure changes predict greater and increasing exposure to violence among children and adolescents. The conceptual model to be tested elaborates on this basic longitudinal association in several ways, including by: 1) measuring family instability by changes in parents’ partnership statuses but also more broadly through the movement of other adults and children through the home, 2) exploring how parental incarceration predicts exposure to violence indirectly through family instability as well as more directly, 3) assessing the variability in links among family instability, parental incarceration, and exposure to violence by race, poverty, age, and gender, and 4) examining such variability across neighborhoods differing in social disadvantages and cultural resources. The PHDCN includes three waves of child, parent, and community data for multiple cohorts (ages 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 to be used here; n = 16% White, 35% African-American, 45% Latino/a, 4% other race/ethnicity). These data will be analyzed through lagged and cross-lagged structural equation modeling linked to other techniques designed to improve causal inference in the face of observable confounds (e.g., propensity score weighting) and unobservable confounds (e.g., fixed effects, robustness indices). Three manuscripts will be produced for submission to peer-reviewed journals, with policy briefs, press releases, and teaching resources linked to each one.

Transitioning into Adulthood during the Great Recession

Principal Investigator: Robert Crosnoe; Co-Principal Investigators: Shannon Cavanagh and Leticia Marteleto
Funded by: National Science Foundation

The Great Recession has generated widespread concerns that contemporary cohorts of youth making their way into adulthood are in danger of becoming a lost generation. This project explores these concerns by examining how the Great Recession has affected many of the statuses that signal the transition from adolescence into adulthood, including various aspects of socioeconomic attainment and family formation. Potential effects involve both the length of time that young people in their late teens and early twenties take to acquire these statuses and the various ways that they combine them. Special attention will be paid to the potential for these effects to vary across diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the U.S., across geographic locales that were more or less hard hit by the economic downturn, and across the U.S.-Canada border, given how the recession started here and then filtered northward. The theoretical value of this research lies in its ability to inject sociological and developmental thinking into considerations of macro-level economic processes, including the ways in which short-term historical events shape long-term trajectories, the potential for young adulthood to be a critical period in the life course, and the interplay of socioeconomic and family experiences. More practically, by unpacking the scarring effects of a major economic recession, this project will serve the future interests of the youth actually undergoing that recession as they age into the next generation of workers, parents, and citizens and identify future youth who may be especially vulnerable in any of the inevitable recessions yet to come. Overall, the goals of the study are to develop a multi-dimensional understanding of the specific case of young adults in the Great Recession that advances interdisciplinary thinking among scientists, inform the public about an issue of great interest, provide valuable training opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students, and better serve the interests of American youth.

Collaborative Research: Early Career Transitions into STEM Employment: Processes Shaping Retention and Satisfaction

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Glass; Co-Principal Investigator: Catherine Riegle-Crumb
Funded by: National Science Foundation

Contemporary debates about STEM education and the STEM labor force center around claims that there is both a shortage of trained workers for the scientific and technical needs of employers, and that this shortage could be ameliorated with larger numbers of women and minorities trained in STEM disciplines where they are currently underrepresented. Our primary research questions deal with both issues by first investigating the transition from STEM education into the labor force for women and men, and then investigating the role of employment conditions, alternative job opportunities, and workplace climate for retention. Our goal is to understand the large gender difference in occupational retention among STEM graduates in the early career, and the results of field departures for women’s and men’s occupational success and earnings.

High School and Beyond: Human Capital over the Life Cycle as a Foundation for Working Longer

Principal Investigator: Chandra Muller
Co-Principal Investigators: Sandra E. Black, Eric Grodsky (University of Wisconsin), and John Robert Warren (University of Minnesota)
Additional Investigators: Robert Hummer, Kelly Raley, Catherine Riegle-Crumb, Debra Umberson
Funded by: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

This project is re-contacting and studying the lives of the nationally representative High School and Beyond (HSB) sophomore sample members just before most turn 50 years old. Rich information about respondents' cognitive and non-cognitive skills and other aspects of their lives collected in the high school and postsecondary years will be linked to newly collected information about their current cognitive and non-cognitive skills, work, health, family roles, and retirement planning at midlife. The new database will be used to study a number of issues related to the consequences for midlife labor force participation of adolescent and early adult circumstances and characteristics. The project will increase our knowledge of the relationships among work, aging, and cognitive and non-cognitive functioning over the life cycle. The historical period occupied by the HSB cohort provides a unique opportunity to study the effects of labor market demand shocks (including the Great Recession) and technological change and computerization on employment patterns for different population subgroups. Re-contacting respondents will provide crucial proof-of-concept and baseline measures for future data collection as respondents' age. The new data infrastructure, composed of a robust database and a multidisciplinary community of users, will support cutting-edge research in a broad set of disciplines, from economics, sociology and demography to health and aging, family studies, education, organizational behavior, psychology, and even extending to more distal fields of genetics, medicine (general and disease specific), criminology and other areas that touch on labor force concerns among older workers.

Does Financialization Contribute to Growing Income Inequality?

Principal Investigator: Ken-Hou Lin
Additional Investigators: Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, parent project PI, UT-Austin subcontract
Funded by: The Institute for Economic Thinking

The financialization of the US economy and rising income inequalities are two of the most profound economic developments of the last fifty years. In this project we ask if the financialization of the US economy has contributed to rising income inequality.  We propose to answer this question with complementary analyses at the individual, firm and industry levels.  We focus on three components of the earnings distribution: employment earnings distributions, executive compensation, and capital/labor shares of value added. For firms we also examine the consequences of financialization for global and domestic employment and for domestic employment separately for various occupational groups.