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Organizations, networks, and hiring

What makes a contact valuable? Hiring, organizational networks and the advantage of network closure

With Lasse Henriksen and Emil Begtrup-Bright


What makes a contact valuable for job seekers?  Employers prefer hiring the contacts of existing employees because they can infer quality and commitment from the referrer.  Research on network structure and mobility typically emphasizes the value of open networks, but trust and coordination, important for employer evaluations of employees, are aided by network closure.  Using Danish administrative data, we identify contacts and their ex-coworker networks in hiring workplaces for 680,000 job moves between 2010 and 2018. We match observed job moves to plausible counterfactuals and assess the utility of contacts’ networks for hiring. We show that closure in employee contacts’ organizational networks increases the probability that job seekers are hired, increases the value of a managerial connection, and is associated with longer tenure at the hiring firm for job seekers. In contrast, network closure that crosses organizational boundaries reduces the utility of employee contacts.

Organizationally Imprinted Networks and Gender Disparities in the Labor Market

With Lasse Henriksen and Emil Begtrup-Bright

The gender composition of organizations shape the value of workers' networks twice: when workers make connections, and when they use them. At formation, organizations provide a cultural context for interaction and determine who meets who. At use, contacts' influence is dependent on their formal and informal organizational position. Using Danish registry data, we show that the value of university networks for hiring depends on the gender composition of university courses and hiring organizations.  Both men and women benefit from building homophilous networks when they are in the majority, and the utility of gender-homophilous contacts increases with the proportion of same-gender employees in hiring organizations. This is highly asymmetrical, however: the value of male-male ties increases with gender composition at three times the rate of female-female ties. This paper provides a partial explanation for the stickiness of labor market gender segregation: past segregation reproduces itself by shaping the value, not just the composition, of labor market networks.

Network hiring in entrepreneurial firms

With Lasse Henriksen and Olav Sorenson

Network hiring is common everywhere, but the curse of newness makes it a particularly useful tool for new firms. Founders may use networks for hiring in several different ways: to transmit information, to increase trust, or as simple favoritism. Using Danish administrative data, we test how each of these mechanisms influences the probability of workers moving to entrepreneurial firms, the quality of network hires, and the post-hire trajectories of new employees. Open networks, which effectively disseminate information but do not increase trust, are particularly helpful for hiring new employees, but these employees do not discernibly differ from non-network hires in their quality or trajectories. Closed networks have a more modest effect on hiring, but new hires in closed networks with founders have more same-industry and same-occupation experience, and stay longer at the hiring firm. We also find evidence for favoritism: family members of founders are far more likely to be hired and receive higher starting salaries than other potential hires, despite having less experience, on average.

Coworker interactions

Sociable Interactions and Social Fit at Work

Social interactions vary across workplaces, in part because workers and managers treat informal social interactions as a facet of workplace cultures, encouraging it in some instances and suppressing it in others. Equally, such interactions are consequential for social capital, and may  be a dimension of cultural fit. Thus processes of status attainment and resource allocation may vary across workplaces in concert with their sociability. Using a new measure of time spent with coworkers, constructed using the American Time Use Survey, this paper shows that work explains a great deal more variation in sociability between coworkers than individual characteristics. The extent of shared workplace identities, influenced by occupational competition levels and union membership, and incentives to socialize are two important mechanisms in this process. Moreover, norms and expectations of appropriate behavior in the workplace accompany occupational differences in sociability, and matching these expectations is consequential for workers' earnings.

Sociability Closure and Gender Inequalities in Earnings, Tenure, and Promotions

My job market paper asks if the sociability of work contributes to gendered labor market inequalities. Socializing with coworkers is a way to cultivate social capital and is an increasingly prominent aspect of corporate culture. Access to social interactions thus provides access to organizational resources, and is a potential mechanism of social closure in workplaces. Dominant groups, such as men in male-dominated workplaces, can limit access to social interactions by controlling the timing, context, and content of social interactions to exclude subordinate groups. This study combines data from the American Time Use Survey and National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979, to study the role of sociability in explaining gender inequalities in job tenure, promotions, and earnings. In all three cases, sociability is associated with greater gender inequalities when men predominate in workplaces. In the most sociable jobs, when workplaces are 80% male, women earn $4000 per annum less than men. Worker-level activity patterns confirm that while women are more sociable than men in non-work contexts, in male-dominated workplaces, women socialize with their coworkers far less frequently than their male colleagues.

Remote work, inequality and COVID-19

Lyttelton, T., Zang, E., & Musick, K. (2023). Parents' work arrangements and gendered time use during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Journal of Marriage and Family, 85(2), 657-673.

The pandemic transformed home and work life for parents, disrupting employment and childcare. The shift to work from home offered more flexibility to manage increased care burdens, but the lack of separation between work and family also likely contributed to more challenging work environments, especially among mothers. In this study we use  the 2017–2020 American Time Use Survey and matching to estimate changes in time use among parents working from home and on site in the pandemic relative to comparable parents prior to the pandemic. Parents, especially mothers, working from home responded to childcare demands through multitasking and schedule changes with potential negative effects on work quality and stress. Parents working

onsite during the pandemic experienced smaller changes in time use. We conclude that pandemic has generated new inequalities between those with and without the flexibility to work from home, and exacerbated gender inequalities among those working from home.

Zang, E., Tan, P. L., Lyttelton, T., & Guo, A. (2023). Impacts of the COVID‐19 Lockdown on Gender Inequalities in Time Spent on Paid and Unpaid Work in Singapore. Population and Development Review. Online first.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected gender inequalities in time spent on paid and unpaid work globally. Few studies outside of the Western context (i.e., countries in Australasia, Europe, or the Americas) have used longitudinal data to compare time use before and during the pandemic, focused on potential mechanisms through which the pandemic affects gender inequalities in time use, or examined the heterogeneous effects of socioeconomic status. We examine the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on gender inequalities in time spent on paid work, housework, and childcare in Singapore. Using a panel dataset of 290 married women interviewed before, during, and after the lockdown, and applying between-within models, we find that gender gaps in housework hours increased during and persisted after the lockdown, even as the gender gap in paid work hours narrowed. The gap in childcare hours expanded among households with fewer resources but decreased among households with more resources. Mothers responded to loss of income and employment by increasing their childcare and housework time more than fathers, suggesting that “doing gender,” rather than time availability or material resources, provide the key mechanism explaining gendered changes in time use. Our results highlight that when a pandemic strikes, women, especially those in less-resourced households, were put in a particularly vulnerable position compared to men.

Lyttelton, T., Zang, E., & Musick, K. (2022). Telecommuting and gender inequalities in parents' paid and unpaid work before and during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Journal of Marriage and Family, 84(1), 230-249.

The global pandemic has led to an unprecedented shift to remote work that will likely persist to some degree into the future. Telecommuting’s impact on flexibility and work family conflict is a critical question for researchers and policy-makers. Our study addresses this question with data collected before and during the COVID-19 crisis: the 2003-2018 American Time Use Survey (ATUS, N = 19,179) and the April and May 2020 COVID Impact Survey (N = 784). Comparing mothers and fathers who work exclusively at the workplace, exclusively from home, and part-day from home, we describe differences in time spent on housework, childcare, and leisure; the nature of time worked at home; and the subjective experiences of telecommuting. In addition to a broad descriptive portrait, we take advantage of a quasi-experimental design in the ATUS leave supplements to examine time working at home among those who report ever telecommuting, providing estimates of telecommuting’s effect on other uses of time that better approximate causal relationships than prior studies. We find that gender gaps in housework are larger for telecommuters, and, among telecommuters, larger on telecommuting days. Conversely, telecommuting may shrink the gender gap in childcare, particularly among couples with two full time earners, although childcare more frequently impinges upon mothers’ work time.

Replication files can be found here.

Lyttelton, T., & Zang, E. (2022). Occupations and Sickness-Related Absences during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of health and social behavior, 63(1)

During the pandemic, work is exposing many workers to extensive health risks, with workplace infections a major source of COVID-19 outbreaks. The experience of work is substantially different by occupation, and “essential” occupations consist of disproportionately low-SES and non-White workers. Documenting occupational health disparities during the pandemic is therefore crucial for understanding COVID-19 health inequalities in the United States. This study uses the Current Population Survey microdata combined with occupational data from multiple sources to estimate occupational differences in sickness-related absences from work in March – June 2020 and their contribution to income, educational, and racial/ethnic differences in health inequalities. We find that there has been an unprecedented rise in absences compared to previous years, highly concentrated in transportation, food-related, and personal-care and service occupations. In areas with a major COVID-19 outbreak, these occupations saw rates of absence 6 times higher than all non-healthcare professional occupations. Occupations with the greatest increase in absences are those that are unsuitable for remote work, require workers to work in close proximity to others, pay low wages and rarely provide health insurance. These occupations are, on average, disproportionately non-White, immigrant, low-SES, and have workers in worse than average health. We show that occupation contributes 41% of the total of Black/White differences in absences, 40% of high-low income differences, and 54% of differences between college graduates and those with at most a high school diploma.

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