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 fault lines created by this shift that fracture contingent faculty. 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 there are two important fault lines that fracture contingent faculty: 1) the role of the income from the contingent faculty job in the household and 2) whether someone is in a contingent position voluntarily or involuntarily. 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. In addition to my dissertation research, the book includes an analysis of the efforts of a union at one university to overcome the fault lines that fracture contingent faculty and improve working conditions. I have also conducted research on the labor movement response to anti-collective bargaining legislation, which has been published 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.