DS08 - Sociétés innovantes, intégrantes et adaptatives

Inequality at work: tackling the local mechanisms of inequality in French firms – ineq_at_work

ineq_at_work

Inequality at work: tackling the mechanisms of inequality in French Firms

Investigating mechanisms of workplace inequality

Widening inequality has become a major source of political, social, and scientific concerns during the last decades. Although patterns and trends in inequality have been extensively documented in many countries, research tends to overfocus on individual determinants and to overlook the local contexts underlying mechanisms of inequality. This project aims at contributing to the current prolific inequality literature. First we take a contextual approach focusing on workplaces as the main locus of inequality production. Workplace oriented explanations indeed highlight that the organizational structure of production is shifting toward firm and workplace level polarization of skill and some firms’ ability to capture income from market transactions. These shifts have led to a focus on the contributions of both within and between workplaces dynamics to earnings inequality trajectories. Moreover, workplaces are not only the main sources of inequality because of their productive role; they also act as “social climates” and “relational contexts” of inequality (re)production. Second, we will analyze workplace inequality on different dimensions (gender, citizenship, education, occupation, geographic location, etc.). Studying these dimensions together allows us to assess the relative role of ascription/achievement in the processes of social attainment in France and the degree of congruence between inequality dimensions at the firm level.

Our research project is comparative building on close collaboration with an international research network involving 14 countries which will allow us to study the variations of patterns and trends of workplace inequality and analyze their explanatory factors across a variety of institutional and national contexts.
We draw on a diversity of sources and methods. We will assess the role of workplace in producing inequality by exploiting large-scale administrative datasets (linked employer-employee social security data). We will use both the exhaustive version and the one merged with the longitudinal linked census data. In addition to earning inequality, we aim at measuring the effect of the firm context on employment opportunity hoarding mechanisms by producing new large-scale data on hiring discrimination in France. We will rely on online job search platforms to conduct a large-scale correspondence study that we will ultimately be merged with firm-level data.

Inequalities between establishments are increasing in the majority of the countries analyzed and this trend is associated with the weakening of institutional labor protection. Despite the effect of sorting, wage inequalities between women and men for the same job within the same firm (within job) remain high in most countries (on average 50% of gross inequalities). Discrimination on the basis of gender is on average non significant in recruitment in France, but there is considerable heterogeneity depending on the qualifications of the jobs and their degree of feminisation. Discrimination on the basis of North-African origin remains systematically high regardless of the sector of activity and the level of qualification.

Comparative work on inequalities in the workplace will be persued and refined. An article on inequalities between native and immigrant workers in the 15 countries studied is currently being written. The authors also remain focused on the French case and study the DADS data together with other data to analyze the mechanisms of wage inequality.

The results of our experimental study led us to think about the tools to reduce discrimination. Two other projects are currently in progress. They seek 1) to evaluate “anti-discrimination” training to act directly on the biases of recruiters using a randomized experiment and 2) assess whether it is possible to reduce discrimination in hiring by informing companies about level of discrimination in their own practises

Two articles were published in leading interdisciplinary journals. They are both based on the integration of Mirna Safi and Olivier Godechot in a large international team that harmonized data from companies in 15 different countries. A first paper was published in 2020 in PNAS and a second in 2022 in Nature, Human Behavior. Three other papers have been published in leading disciplinary journals and many others are submitted or in the process of being submitted.

The team also conducted a large-scale experimental study and several reports were written outlining the initial results. This work uncovered measures of gender and North African origin discrimination and their interaction and analyzed their mechanisms. Articles from this experimental study are being prepared for academic journals.

Widening inequality has become a major source of political, social, and scientific concerns during the last decades. Although patterns and trends in inequality have been extensively documented in many countries, research tends to overfocus on individual determinants and to overlook the local contexts underlying mechanisms of inequality. This project’s contribution to the inequality literature is threefold. First we take a contextual approach focusing on workplaces as the main locus of inequality production. Workplace oriented explanations indeed highlight that the organizational structure of production is shifting toward firm and workplace level polarization of skill and some firms’ ability to capture income from market transactions. These shifts have led to a focus on the contributions of both within and between workplaces dynamics to earnings inequality trajectories. Moreover, workplaces are not only the main sources of inequality because of their productive role; they also act as “social climates” and “relational contexts” of inequality (re)production. Second, we will analyze workplace inequality on different dimensions (gender, citizenship, education, occupation, geographic location, etc.). Studying these dimensions together allows us to assess the relative role of ascription/achievement in the processes of social attainment in France and the degree of congruence between inequality dimensions at the firm level. Third, our research project is comparative building on close collaboration with an international research network involving 11 countries which will allow us to study the variations of patterns and trends of workplace inequality and analyze their explanatory factors across a variety of institutional and national contexts.
To achieve these three objectives, we draw on a diversity of sources and methods. We will assess the role of workplace in producing inequality by exploiting large-scale administrative datasets (linked employer-employee social security data). We will use both the exhaustive version and the one merged with the longitudinal linked census data. In addition to earning inequality, we aim at measuring the effect of the firm context on employment opportunity hoarding mechanisms by producing new large-scale data on hiring discrimination in France. We will rely on online job search platforms to conduct a large-scale correspondence study that we will ultimately be merged with firm-level data. Our project will be the first to provide systematic and extensive evidence on workplace inequality in France both in terms of earnings and access to employment.

Project coordination

Mirna Safi (FOND NAT DES SCIENCES POLITIQUES)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

FNSP FOND NAT DES SCIENCES POLITIQUES
CES - UMR8174 (UP1/CNRS) Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne

Help of the ANR 301,644 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2017 - 48 Months

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