ideas for budding researchers: where research on labor, organizations, and work is headed

On Fri., Graduate Center faculty and affiliates got together to meet with sociology graduate students.   In my group, which included Paul Attewell, Pam Stone, Ruth Milkman, Sophia Catsambis, and myself, we discussed what we thought might be hot topics in the areas of labor, organizations, and work.  Not only was this an invigorating conversation, but also an opportunity to hear of research in the pipeline and upcoming and recent publications.  I’m sharing some of these ideas here.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) – ideal for a pre- and post- study!: whether it liberates employees who only stay with a particular workplace for the health insurance, how organizations that would have attracted members for health insurance (i.e., freelancers union) will now adjust
  • How do people find jobs?  Universities now aggressively push career-building and networking for students.  Someone needs to update Granovetter’s research on networks.
  • Employment and health: how does chronic illness impact career trajectories and employment?
  • How do the so-called “Millenials” conceive of work – how do their parents’ experience with work (i.e., downsizing, long hours, minimal or no rewards for worker loyalty) and governance (weakened state protections) inform adult children’s conceptions of ideal workplaces?  For example, are some younger workers viewing workplaces as sites of self-actualization, manageable work hours, and contractual work?
  • Transnationalization of work: worker flows via the H1B visa
  • Inequality: How do organizations dampen, reinforce, or exacerbate inequalities?  Interesting contexts include organizations that deliver healthcare.
  • How to imagine alternatives to contemporary hierarchical organizations: the impact of Occupy and other contemporary democratic groups.

Of course, no discussion was complete without stories about dealing with the IRB.

If you’re working on one of the above ideas, or have other ideas for where the discipline can go, please do add them into the comments.

Written by katherinechen

October 8, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Posted in research, sociology

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. Speaking of IRBs, I’ve been following the IRB Blog. It’s managed by the Zachary Schrab, author of “Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences.” A while ago he posted on things that an institution can do to deal with IRB problems and the post is here:

    Point 7 is particularly important, given that many ethics decisions are based on gut feelings.

    Schrab has also been blogging about the rather sad exclusion of social scientists from the legislative process involving the overhaul of federal rules. The overhaul itself seems to have stalled, which is even worse.


    Chris M

    October 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing this link. Ethnographers might like the following link from Schrab’s blog:



    October 9, 2013 at 9:51 pm

  3. I had class and could not make it–but have been working on understanding the evolving characteristics of low wage workers, how low wage labor markets operate, and on the formation, development, and activities of low wage worker organizations and organizational networks. Some recent work is here and here



    October 10, 2013 at 11:29 am

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