Indiana University

News Release

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011

IU researchers discuss wage gap, violence, public assistance and more at ASA meeting

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Editors: Below is a sampling of Indiana University research that was discussed at the American Sociological Association's 2011 Annual Meeting on Aug. 20-23 in Las Vegas.

Aug. 22, 2011

The research discusses the following topics:

Gender wage gap: New job trends reproducing old forms of gender inequality
Violence, alcohol and community organization
Poor women and welfare reform: working without a net
How "No Child Left Behind" came to mean the opposite
Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens and their friends

New job trends reproducing old forms of gender inequality. Jobs that come with large paychecks but long work hours are slowing the gains women have made since the late 70s in narrowing the gender wage gap. A study by sociologists from Indiana University and Cornell University finds that the growing trend of overworking -- working 50 hours a week or more -- is partly responsible for the slowdown Americans have experienced since the mid-1990s in the convergence of the gender gap in pay. The gap between the percentage of women working full-time compared to men has shrunk during the past 30 years but the gender gap involving long working hours has changed little and remains large. "Women, even when employed fulltime, typically have more family obligations than men," said IU sociologist Youngjoo Cha, who specializes in gender, labor markets and social inequality. "This limits their availability for the 'greedy occupations,' that require long work hours, such as high-level managers, lawyers and doctors. In these occupations, workers are often evaluated based on their face time." The study, using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, finds the relative hourly wage of overworkers compared to full-time workers has increased substantially over the past three decades. Because a greater percentage of male workers are overworking, this change benefited men more than women. "Gender gaps in overwork, when coupled with rising returns to overwork, exacerbate the gender gap in wages," Cha said. "New ways of organizing work are reproducing old forms of inequality."

More about the study:

Most of the decline in the gender gap in wages occurred in the 1980s. Women now earn an estimated 81 percent of what men earn.

Cha will discuss her findings on Sunday, Aug. 21, during a 2:30-4:10 p.m. session on Organizations, Occupations and Work at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The co-author of the study is Kim Weeden, Cornell University.

To speak with Cha, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 and Top

Violence, alcohol and community organization. The density of businesses that sell alcohol in a community has been tied to local levels of violence, but new research has found that the influence depends on the nature of the community. More stable communities can see little to no influence but more disorganized communities are not so fortunate. Communities with greater levels of disorganization, marked by higher percentages of people living in poverty and in women-headed households with children and more renters, were hit the hardest by the presence of the liquor establishments. "Common values and stronger social cohesion found in more organized communities usually results in a greater ability to regulate the behavior of local retailers and those who patronize the local alcohol outlets," said William Alex Pridemore, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Indiana University Bloomington. "These communities are more likely to have greater social capital, effective informal surveillance, and even friends who work at city hall. They're more likely to get the attention of police or authorities who license liquor establishments." The study results have policy implications. Changing local and state alcohol policies can be daunting because of its complex political and commercial context but Pridemore said changing alcohol policy, such as restricting the number of outlets that can operate in disorganized neighborhoods, might be easier to achieve than changing neighborhood characteristics like poverty or social disorganization. Citywide policies that establish density thresholds for businesses that sell alcohol might not be necessary, he said, but instead such policies could be targeted to protect the most fragile neighborhoods.

More about the study:

Pridemore will discuss the findings on Monday, Aug. 22, during the 2:30-4:10 p.m. session on Crime, Law and Deviance. The research was partially supported by IU's Faculty Research Support Program, administered by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. The Department of Criminal Justice is part of the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.

Pridemore can be reached at 812-856-2220 and Top

Working without a net. Welfare and Unemployment Insurance, considered important parts of Americans' safety net during difficult financial times, have provided little to no help for many low-wage earners who have the shortest distance to fall. Poor women in a study by Indiana University sociologist Kristin Seefeldt grew to expect this. "For the lowest income citizens in the U.S., they have very, very limited expectations about what government could or should do for them even though they are being hit so hard by the recession," said Seefeldt, assistant professor in IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The women in her study also saw the support they received from private safety nets, such as family members, diminish as the recession worsened. The women struggled with a variety of issues, such as not qualifying for public benefits despite their dire situations, red tape that appeared overly cumbersome or interfered with their jobs, and discouraging interactions with case workers. National data, Seefeldt said, has shown that cash welfare caseloads have not increased much since the recession began. "Women have been left with nowhere else to turn but themselves," Seefeldt said. "This renders them very poor. I've found that these women often carry enormous amounts of debt, get behind on bills."

About the study:

Seefeldt said these women also have trouble benefiting from the Unemployment Insurance program for a variety of reasons, such as holding seasonal jobs, not having earned enough to receive benefits, or working for employers who contest their application for benefits. "The Unemployment Insurance system is really set up with the assumption that people work full-time year round in the same job for long periods of time and then get laid off," she said. "Unemployment Insurance hasn't kept up with the realities of the labor market where people do move around a lot."

Seefeldt has an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Sociology in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on low income families, particularly single mothers in the U.S. She will discuss her study on Saturday, Aug. 20, in the 2:30-4:10 p.m. session about welfare reform.

To speak with Seefeldt, contact Steve Hinnefeld, University Communications, at 812-856-3488 and Top

Changing the meaning of "No Child Left Behind." How did the "No Child Left Behind" law come to be seen as "leaving children behind"? Indiana University researchers Tim Hallett and Emily Meanwell address the question through the lens of sociology. They say that education accountability policies, such as those in the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, are not an abstract set of mandates but an "inhabited institution," where interactions matter. "When we think about accountability policy, people tend to think about it as some kind of abstract thing that's 'out there,'" Hallett said. "We want to show that accountability is an institution that's inhabited by people doing things together, interacting in congressional hearings. It's through these interactions that the meaning of No Child Left Behind is being challenged." Hallett, an associate professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Sociology, and Meanwell, a doctoral student, will present their research findings during the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas. Their presentation comes as Congress is again deadlocked over reauthorizing the federal education law. Some states have rebelled against NCLB's requirement that all students meet proficiency requirements by 2014. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has proposed waivers for states that adopt policies aimed at improving teacher effectiveness and turning around low-performing schools.

About the study

The critiques of the law that teachers had been making with each other gained new weight when they were presented in the formal setting of congressional hearings. The result was a surprising change in meaning for a law that had passed with Republican and Democratic support just five years earlier. "No Child Left Behind had a lot of bipartisan support," Hallett said. "For all that bipartisan support to disappear, it's kind of shocking." Hallett says the research helps fill a gap in the sociology of education, which has tended to focus on factors that determine student success, not on institutions and policies. "Somewhat surprisingly," he says, "education policies have remained largely outside the focus of sociological research, generally addressed neither by sociologists of education nor sociologists focusing on social policies." Top

To speak with Hallett, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 and Top

Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens and their friends. A research paper that looks at whether the mental health of gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) teens is impacted by having some friends who knew about their sexual orientation and others who didn't was presented on Monday at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Las Vegas. The paper concludes that having one network of friends who knew and another network of friends who didn't know about the teens' sexual orientation does not have a strong relationship to mental health, said Eric Wright, one of four authors of a paper on the study who presented their findings at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 22.

About the study

A key question has been what helps and hinders kids in developing sexual orientation and managing their mental health, Wright said. "One of the hypotheses is whether kids are at greater risk for mental health problems when they keep their sexual identity separate from one network of friends and share it with another network." What this paper tests is the degree to which networks of people who knew or didn't know are separate. While the data isn't as clean as the researchers would have liked, it suggests kids are keeping networks separate, Wright said. However, the study found that segmentation of networks of friends -- between those who knew and those who did not know about the sexual orientation of the teens -- did not seem to be that important in determining their mental health. "Which sort of says kids may not be leading these double lives as much as we thought," Wright said. The takeaway is that if the social structure of their networks of friends doesn't matter than what may matter more in terms of the mental health of these teens is the particular emotional quality of the people they do have in their networks, including those who know and those who don't know, Wright said.

Wright can be reached at 317-274-3161 and Top


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