Department of Sociology Work, Organizations, and Labor Markets

Work- whether paid or unpaid – is a fundamental feature of a person’s life.  Nearly all U.S. adults are engaged in some form of paid work and work defines one’s identity and provides a source of social ties.   Paid work affects one’s standard of living and its absence is a contributing factor to social inequality.  At the same time, differences in where whites and minorities and women and men work and how they are treated by employers are a major component of race and gender inequality in the U.S.  Not all work is done for pay; in fact, twenty-five percent of the U.S. population is also engaged in some form of unpaid volunteer work (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2007).

Sociology faculty in the field of Work, Organizations and Labor Markets examine material and cultural factors that mold work, shape organizations, and structure labor markets.  Because work and employment are central to racial, gendered and class inequality, this field of study goes to the heart of public concerns, civic engagement and social justice.  Because of its relevance to the lives of Americans, the topic of work is at the forefront of what the discipline of sociology views as important.  The discipline has several peer-reviewed journals devoted solely to the topic of work and the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the ASA is among the largest sections.  The core faculty listed below in the Work, Organizations, and Labor Markets area within the WSU Department of Sociology are nationally recognized scholars who address paid work and other types of work, namely volunteer work, and the organizational and labor market context where paid and volunteer work occur.

Core Faculty

  • Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson examines the development of work-orientations and how they are shaped by social location, anticipated life courses, early work experience, and educational experiences in adolescence and the transition to adulthood. In addition, she studies the transition to work in adolescence and early adulthood.
  • Julie Kmec focuses primarily on work organizations and their practices. In addition to studying promotions, worker turnover, segregation, pay, and organizational mobility, she is also interested in studying workplace discrimination. She is currently exploring how institutional environments shape the demographic composition of work organizations.
  • Katrina Leupp examines the gendered organization of paid and unpaid labor, and its consequences for social inequality, health and family functioning. Current projects consider the mental health benefits of employment for mothers, investigating how intra-household resource distribution, gender attitudes and life course stages condition the link between employment and mental health.
  • Thomas Rotolo conducts research on volunteering and voluntary associations. He also maintains research interests in social networks, quantitative techniques, and the sociology of sport.
  • Amy S. Wharton studies social inequality in the context of the workplace. She has published papers on sex segregation in the labor market and the effects of the sex composition of work groups on male and female workers’ perceptions of their job. She is particularly interested in the consequences of “being different” for workers’ experiences and rewards on the job. Dr. Wharton has recently begun to examine the effects of motherhood on patterns of social inequality at work.