MEET YOUR COUNCIL: Lauren Rivera and Angelina Grigoryeva

Lauren Rivera
Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
Associate Professor of Management & Organizations
Associate Professor of Sociology, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences (Courtesy)

How did you become interested in economic sociology? How has this interest shaped your academic career and research endeavors?
While I’ve had a longstanding personal interest in the dynamics of work (I’ve held some pretty wild jobs, starting at age 14), I became interested in pursuing economic sociology while taking Frank Dobbin’s graduate seminar at Harvard. Believe it or not, I actually entered my PhD program thinking I would become a networks analyst. But I soon discovered that qualitative research was my passion, and my interest in economic sociology has shaped the types of questions and field sites I’ve pursued during my academic career.

What makes you most excited about being an economic sociologist?
I think it’s a great time to be an economic sociologist. There are so many changes that are taking place with respect to work and the economy as a whole that are ripe for inquiry. I also think that the subfield is becoming more diverse, both in terms of scholars and the type of scholarship that is welcomed, which really excites me.

How do you think your work, and economic sociology more broadly, can influence the social, economic, and political landscapes of contemporary society? Are there particular outcomes you hope your research achieves?
I think the public is hungry for research that helps them understand the massive economic changes that have taken (and are taking place) around them. I think economic sociology can provide some of those answers in a way that the discipline of economics cannot. With respect to my work in particular, I hope that my research not only furthers debates within sociology but also calls attention to the way that advantage— whether based on class, gender, race, or otherwise—is perpetuated in labor markets, with an eye toward leveling the playing field.

Your work has focused significantly on gender. Why is it important to include gender as a main analytical focus in economic sociology? Can you tell us more about how researchers can best go about linking these subfields? What are the impacts of such
an interdisciplinary approach?
I think gender is absolutely essential to include as an analytic focus because it is still one of the primary ways people categorize others, distribute resources, and organize work, whether we like to admit it or not. I’m thrilled that gender is becoming more central to economic sociology. I think that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary but not without challenges; the methods and frameworks between subfields do vary, and
integrating the two requires a healthy dose of translation, which often amounts to longer word counts…

Please tell us about any projects you have in the works right now.
I have a new ethnographic project on junior faculty search committees, which I’m really excited about. In general, my work is moving more towards looking at how gender combines with other factors to produce cycles of advantage and disadvantage in labor markets. I have another project with Andras Tilcsik (Toronto) that looks at the differential returns to high social class signals for men and for women in hiring as well as an additional quantitative project with Jayanti Owens (Brown) looking at the effect of interviewer gender on women and men’s fate in the hiring process.

Angelina Grigoryeva
Princeton University
Graduate Student
How did you become interested in economic sociology? How has this interest shaped your academic career and research endeavors?
When I was taking a graduate-level course in economic sociology with Professor Viviana Zelizer, I was particularly struck to see how sociological accounts not only extend conventional economic explanations, but also how the sociological approach to economic activity broaden the contexts in which economic processes are analyzed to a wide range of settings and the types of economic exchanges conceptualized (for example,
gifs, informal economies, or unpaid domestic labor within households). Emerged at the very beginning of my graduate career, since then my interest in economic sociology and its analytic tools largely pre-determined my current research interests and projects, including my current work on the gender division of elder care and on household financial practices (as I discuss below).

What makes you most excited about being an economic sociologist?
As an economic sociologist, I am most excited about building up and strengthening intellectual bridges between economic sociology and other fields of sociology, particularly inequality research and gender scholarship.

How do you think your work, and economic sociology more broadly, can influence the social, economic, and political landscapes of contemporary society? Are there particular outcomes you hope your research achieves?
I think that the conceptual lens and analytic tools of economic sociology may be especially informative for understanding inequality processes and outcomes, especially in light of the growing prominence of finance for the economy and the concurrent rise of inequality. On the one hand, classic works in economic sociology – from Simmel to Zelizer – often focus on money, its social meaning and relational work around it. On the other hand, money – in the form of income and wealth – has long been the focus of inequality scholars, as it is a critical component of well-being and is related to a host of other inequality outcomes. I believe that an intellectual conversation between economic sociology and inequality and stratification literature may be informative for both lines of scholarship. In my research, I build on insights from economic sociology, particularly with respect to household financial practices, to examine their role in wealth mobility and wealth inequality. Your work has also focused significantly on gender.

Why is it important to include gender as a main analytical focus in economic sociology? Can you tell us more about how researchers can best go about linking these subfields? What are the impacts of such an interdisciplinary approach?
I view gender is an important organizing component of a wide range of economic activities, ranging from paid work in the labor market to unpaid family labor, and as such is also an important axis of inequality processes and outcomes. To answer your questions in one sentence, it seems to me that the focus on gender in economic sociology further extends contexts of economic activities, what constitutes economic activity, and areas of life in which gender inequality occurs. In my own work, focus on gender has informed my research on the gender division of elder care, an increasingly important component of unpaid family labor. Please tell us about any projects you have in the works right now.

My research builds on insights from economic sociology to examine inequality processes and outcomes. My dissertation research focuses on household financial practices in the era of mass-participatory finance and point to their role in wealth mobility processes as a new mechanism of inequality. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), it identifies three distinctive patterns of use of financial products and services as well as financial prudency habits. Notably, financial practices remain stable over time. Furthermore, household financial practices have distinctive effects on wealth mobility, above and beyond standard socio-economic variables usually considered in the inequality literature. The financial practices of the disadvantaged result in downward wealth mobility, whereas the financial practices of the privileged may facilitate or inhibit upward wealth mobility, depending on the nature of involvement with consumer finance. In my other projects, I examine the gender division of elderly parent care among adult children and historical evolution of racial residential segregation.

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