Elizabeth Klainot-Hess

Ph.D. Level
Graduate Students

My broad research areas are work, higher education, stratification, and labor movements.  My dissertation, titled “Privileged Teachers and Struggling Breadwinners: Contingent Faculty and the Rise of Inequality in the Academy,” is a qualitative study of contingent faculty.  Part 1 examines whether contingent faculty jobs are good or bad jobs, and for whom they are good or bad jobs. In this portion of the dissertation I develop a typology of contingent faculty based on two dimensions: job reward orientation and class location (which may be spouse-mediated).  I argue that this combination of job reward orientation and class location affects both job satisfaction and quality of life, making these good jobs for only a small group of contingent faculty. This creates inequality both between contingent faculty and tenure-track faculty and among contingent faculty.  Part 2, which I am currently conducting additional research for, focuses on efforts to improve contingent faculty jobs and examines in what ways they are able to improve these jobs, and who benefits the most from these improvements. This section will focus on top-down efforts by departments and universities and bottom-up efforts by contingent faculty unions and social movements.  Top-down efforts tend to target status inequality, which matters the most for advantaged contingent faculty and bottom-up efforts tend to target economic inequality, which matters the most for disadvantaged contingent faculty. I will argue that in order to improve these jobs for all contingent faculty, both top-down and bottom-up efforts are necessary, but all efforts should consider the needs of different types of contingent faculty.   

I have also conducted research on the tactics used by labor movements to fight anti-collective bargaining bills, which is the subject of my forthcoming article in Sociological Focus titled “When Mobilization is Not Enough: Political Mediation, Framing and the Use of Direct Democracy Devices by the Labor Movement in Response to Anti-Union Legislation.”  I am also working on a collaborative quantitative project that uses CPS data to examine why women are more likely than men to be in involuntary part-time positions.


Areas of Expertise
  • Work, Economy & Organizations
  • Higher Education
  • Inequality

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