My research team and I focus our research on three 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 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 for employment, such as fair wages and access to healthcare. We also have a number of ongoing studies focusing on people with low wage 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 have built models of fulfilling work and investigated how structural variables affect access to fulfilling work (e.g., economic marginalization).
Social Class and Classism
Our team has relatedly examined how social class and classism affect work and academic outcomes. For example, we have studied institutional classism and economic deprivation as key predictors of well-being for college students and have identified work volition – the degree to which someone has freedom to choose their work and career – as an important mediator in this process. In short, this line of research describes how structural factors affect students’ well-being and occupational choice before they enter the workforce. My students and I are also interested in how social mobility and social class identity relate to mental health and other outcomes.