Dr. Elizabeth Klainot-Hess

I received my PhD from the Ohio State University in May 2020. My research and teaching interests include work, inequality, labor movements, economic sociology, education and qualitative methods. My research explores how the emergence and growth of contingent and precarious work creates and reproduces class, race, and gender inequality as well as the collective responses to these new forms of work and the inequality they create.  

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In my dissertation I explore the effects of the unprecedented shift in the composition of faculty away from tenure-track positions and towards contingent faculty positions. Drawing on in-depth interviews with one hundred contingent faculty, I uncover the inequalities created by this shift, and the efforts of contingent faculty to combat these inequalities through unions and social movements.  These positions were historically designed for people who did not rely on the income from this job and viewed teaching as a hobby or side job, and this group still makes up a portion of contingent faculty. Recently, the media has drawn attention to a growing group of contingent faculty who are in these positions involuntarily and are struggling to survive. I draw attention to two additional groups that have often been ignored 1) those who are able to make ends meet due to being married to a high-earning spouse, but who are in these positions involuntarily and are dissatisfied with them, and 2) those who chose these positions and remain in them despite struggling to make ends meet because they find their jobs so intrinsically rewarding.  I argue that the disparate experiences of these four groups create barriers to solidarity and collective action, but when they can be overcome, important improvements can be made to these jobs. An article based on this dissertation is forthcoming in the journal Research in the Sociology of Work and I am writing a book based on this research which has garnered interest several academic presses. I have also conducted research on the labor movement response to anti-collective bargaining legislation, which is forthcoming in Sociological Focus, and I have conducted research with colleagues on the overrepresentation of women in involuntary part-time work which is forthcoming in Sociological Perspectives.