Research Paper Victoria Smith

Employability and Career Making in Low-Wage Labor Markets
Victoria Smith (Affiliate in Sociology) with graduate researcher Brian Halpin (Sociology)

This project examines the mechanisms that low-wage, precariously positioned workers develop to mitigate the deleterious aspects of their employment (poverty level wages, volatility). It connects to two of the Center ’s research areas: labor markets and poverty, and immigrant workers and poverty. Qualitative research will be conducted to explore how workers piece together careers (broadly defined) in low-wage markets and strive to increase their employability (expand their skill sets, maximize their exposure to diverse occupational niches, create and exploit social capita). While much research suggests that public policy should focus on enabling workers to move up and out of low-wage work, increasingly, sociologists and economists contend that this focus is misplaced given the entrenchment of the service economy, making it important to have models for how low-wage workers might expand their human capital and strategize to overcome the disadvantages inherent in poverty level employment.