This course focuses on the role of work and the labor market in our every day lives as well as how they structure our broader society. The average American adult spends over a third of their waking hours doing work or work-related activities for pay. For most of us, this means giving up some autonomy and control of our minds and bodies in exchange for a paycheck. Work not only provides necessary income, but also structures our daily activities, our social life and our identities. For many, the questions of who we are and what we do are closely linked. On a larger scale, jobs and the labor market structure the fabric of our society and are an important part of national and international political discussions. Employment, unemployment, jobs, unions and work are part of the current conversation regarding inequality and the economy. From local coverage of Boeing contract deals to national conversations about inequality in pay between executives and workers, concerns over work surround us. This course will take sociological look at issues surrounding the structure and consequences of work and labor market.
The aim of this course is to begin to understand what it means to study work and labor markets from a sociological perspective and to connect our sociological understanding to our own experiences and the world around us. Over the course of the term, we will seek to answer the following questions:
- What is the structure of the labor market in the United States? How and why has it changed over the last century?
- What are the processes by which people are matched to jobs? Do these processes work well? What are the problems?
- How do jobs and work contribute to social structure and stratification?
- How do our other identities and roles interact with the labor market? How do our racial and gender identities and our roles as parents, partners and students shape our experiences in the labor market?