RESEARCH

My research team and I focus our research in several broad but overlapping areas:

 

Underemployment, Precarious Work, Decent Work, and Working Poverty

My main area of research is the quality and structure of work, how structural factors effect who has access to good jobs, and the effects of work quality on mental health. Today’s workplace is rapidly changing and dynamic, and it exists in the context of increasing income inequality and precarious work. Within this environment, secure and stable employment is becoming more difficult to find, especially for marginalized and vulnerable populations. To examine this problem, my colleagues and I have focused on underemployment, which is work that is below acceptable standards, and decent work, which is work that meets basic requirements, such as a fair wage and access to healthcare. We also have a number of ongoing studies focusing on people in working poverty and precarious work. We have developed scales of underemployment and examined relations between these variables and well-being. We also developed the work precarity framework to outline predictors and outcomes of precarious work and the psychological experience of precarity (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103491).

See this link for a partial summary of this work: https://scholars.org/brief/why-good-jobs-are-important-economy-and-mental-health-and-well-being-american-workers

Access to Meaningful and Fulfilling Work

Beyond simply having a decent job, people strive to have work that is meaningful and fulfilling but often find themselves in jobs that are stressful and alienating. To study this problem, my colleagues and I have examined access to meaningful work through the lens of several psychological theories, such as psychology of working theory, latent deprivation theory, job characteristics theory, and self-determination theory. Constructs we have applied to this problem include character strengths, prosocial behaviors, social class, classism, work volition, and underemployment. We also examine how meaningful work affects well-being and mental health more broadly. Finally, we also examine access to fulfilling work in marginalized populations, such as people who identify as a sexual minority, people with chronic illness, people who are transgender and gender nonconforming, and people from low-income backgrounds. 

See this article in Psychological Science Agenda for a partial summary of this work: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2018/07/valuable-employment.aspx

Cultural Perspectives on Work

My team and I have become increasingly interested in cultural perspectives on work, specifically how people understand, interpret, and experience work across different contexts. This particularly includes how people from various levels of privilege and access to resources experience meaningful work and well-being. We have especially focused on how people's subjective social class and objective socioeconomic status relate to interpretations of work and the experience of fulfilling work.  

 

Well-Being and Positive Psychology

A smaller area of my research examines well-being outside of work. For example, we have examined constructs such as gratitude, meaning in life, goals, and character strengths, especially in college student populations.