Fall 2013 Colloquia

Monday, September 16, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Laura Kray

Written in the Stars or Blind Chance? Gender Differences in Supernatural Agency and Attribution

Laura Kray, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

We examined gender differences in supernatural agency beliefs and causal attributions to fate about life events. We expected women, more so than men, to believe in destiny and, in turn, to attribute life events to fate. Across 6 studies, we observed support for our hypotheses. Both when choosing between fate and chance as causal forces (Study 1a) and when independently assessing the roles of fate and chance (Study 1b), women perceived fate as a causal explanation for life events more so than men; gender did not predict attributions to chance. Consistent with the hypothesis that fate implies human interconnection, the gender difference in fate attributions was stronger for relational than independent life events (Study 2). Study 3 found destiny beliefs mediated the gender difference in fate attributions (Study 3). Both relational self-construal and belief in God mediated the relation between gender and destiny beliefs (Study 4). Also, men’s destiny beliefs were more dependent on their personal sense of status than were women’s. Experimentally manipulating self-construal (Study 5) resulted in a gender difference in destiny beliefs under a relational-self construal but not an independent self-construal. Implications for understanding conflict between the sexes are discussed.

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Monday, September 23, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Kim Voss

Worker Identities in a New Era of Immigration

Kim Voss, Sociology, UC Berkeley

Since 1990, immigrants and their children have been the fastest growing component of the American population and their presence is profoundly altering the nation’s racial and ethnic landscape. Nowhere are such changes as profound as in the workplaces of California, where the number of immigrant workers exceeds that of every other state. Yet little research has assessed how these immigrants understand social hierarchy in America or how their workplace presence might be shaping both their own identities and that of native-born workers. Building on an approach pioneered by Michèle Lamont and using data from 62 in-depth interviews, this talk reports preliminary findings about the ways in which white and Latino working-class Californians construct the boundaries that define “people like me” and “people different from me.” Our interviews suggest that Latinos are replacing African Americans as the most salient comparative group for whites and that this is altering how both white and Latino workers see themselves and each other. These changes in reference groups also appear to affect the type and strength of distinctions workers draw between themselves and those they perceive to be in both the upper and lower classes. Workers interviewed for this study were considerably more critical of those above and compassionate toward those below than has been found in prior research. These preliminary findings suggest how much workers’ identities may be changing in today’s new era of immigration.

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Monday, October 7, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Phillipe Pochet

The Euro Crisis and its Impact on National and European Social Policies

Phillipe Pochet, European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)

» Euro Crisis Paper PDF

We begin by describing three different models of economic and monetary union and the different policy dynamics underlying them. These dynamics influence the architecture of monetary union which has a huge impact on national industrial relations and welfare state policies. Our hypothesis is that, in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, and subsequently of the ‘euro crisis’, and also due to the fact that the vast majority of governments in the EU responsible for handling this crisis were centre/right-wing, one model of economic and monetary union has been converted into another. What we describe is a series of political choices, circumstances and windows of opportunity that have enabled this particular vision of the model of monetary union to gain acceptance. In the context of this model, political union is not considered an accessible way to manage the crisis, for the rescue of the euro is regarded as feasible only in a more competitive economy. The social dimension, accordingly, becomes the adjustment variable. In this regard, the statements made by the President of the European Central Bank announcing the death of the European Social Model, are merely the anticipation of a reality that is the outcome of a political choice, based on a set of economic prescriptions and which takes for granted the impossibility of attaining true political union.

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Monday, October 14, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Neil Fligstein

The Emergence of a Finance Culture in American Households, 1989-2007

Neil Fligstein, Soiolcogy, UC Berkeley

As the financial economy has expanded beginning in the mid-1980s, it has done so in part by selling more products to individuals and households, such as mortgages, second mortgages, mutual funds, student loans, car loans, insurance, and various forms of retirement products. This has allowed households access to new forms of assets and debts and new ways to fund their lifestyles. This giant expansion of the financial services sector occurred at the same time that income inequality and job insecurity increased dramatically in the U.S. This paper seeks to tease out empirically the relationship between these trends by examining data on the activities of households in the past 20 years. There are two views, one that focuses on how households reacted defensively to preserve their lifestyles and the other which focuses on households developing a more financial mindset to the management of their assets, debt, and consumption and thereby using the new opportunities to invest and borrow money to increase their consumption. We show some support for both views. Consumption of financial services has increased at an even rate at all levels of the income distribution. Attitudes toward indebtedness have generally become more lax. But trends toward more active financial management and embrace of risk-taking are largely confined to the top 20% of the income distribution. For those lower on the income distribution financial strategies are a means to get by, while those at the top embrace finance as an opportunity to get ahead.

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Monday, October 21, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Nicole Maestas

Does Delay Cause Decay? The Effect of Administrative Decision Time on the Labor Force Participation and Earnings of Disability Applicants

Nicole Maestas, Economics, Sociology and Statistics Research, RAND

An influential body of research studies the labor supply and earnings of denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants to estimate the potential employment and earnings of those awarded benefits. This research design implicitly treats employability as a stable applicant attribute that is not directly impacted by the process of applying for SSDI benefits. If, plausibly, applicants' employment potential deteriorates while they are out of the labor force, then the labor force participation of denied applicants—who spend an average of 10 months seeking benefits—may understate their employment potential at the time of application. This paper tests whether the duration of SSDI applications causally affects applicants' subsequent employment. We use a unique Social Security Administration workload database to identify exogenous variation in applicants' initial decision times induced by differences in processing speed among the disability examiners to which they are randomly assigned. This variation significantly affects applicants' total processing time but, importantly, is uncorrelated with their initial award and denial outcomes. We find that longer processing times reduce the employment and earnings of SSDI applicants in the years after their initial decision. A one standard deviation (2.4 month) increase in initial processing time reduces annual employment rates by 1 percentage point (3.2%) in years two, three and four post-decision. Extrapolating these effects to total applicant processing times, we estimate that the SSDI determination process directly reduces the post-application employment of denied applicants by approximately 3.6 percentage points (7%) and allowed applicants by approximately 5.2 percentage points (33%).

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Monday, October 28, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Sarah Anzia

The Politics of Pensions

Sarah Anzia, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley

The recent economic downturn exposed a crisis in public pensions in the United States.  For decades, government officials have promised increasingly generous pension benefits to public employees and yet have consistently failed to make the contributions necessary to fund those promises.  In this paper, we examine the politics of public pensions using a new dataset of state legislators’ votes on hundreds of pension bills passed between 1999 and 2011. While it is reasonable to expect that Democrats vote for enhanced pension benefits, we argue that Republicans have historically had little incentive to oppose them   and actually good reasons to go along with them: the bill for enhanced benefits doesn’t come due for a long time; pensions are hard for voters to monitor; and until very recently, pressure by public sector unions to expand benefits was not counterbalanced by interest groups on the other side.  In our empirical analysis, we document a striking over-time pattern in the types of pension bills passed by state legislatures:  a decade of benefit expansion nationwide was followed by a sharp shift to retrenchment starting in 2009.  We also find that from 1999 to 2008, Democrats and Republicans were voting together.  Only with the Great Recession, when the pension problem aroused the attention of voters and ignited the opposition of interest groups, did Republicans regularly vote against the Democrats. Thus, while today’s partisan rhetoric on public pensions would suggest that Democrats are responsible for creating the crisis, our analysis shows otherwise.  In normal times, the politics of public pensions is bipartisan.

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Monday, November 4, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Reed Walker

Demand Shocks, Supply Chains, and Implications for Local Economies: Evidence from the Auto Industry

Reed Walker, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley


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Monday, November 18, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Till Von Wachter



Till von Wachter, Economics, UCLA


Monday, November 25, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Seth Holmes

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

Seth M. Holmes, Medical Anthropology & Public Health, UC Berkeley

Based on five years of research in the field (including berry-picking and traveling with migrants back and forth from Oaxaca up the West Coast), this paper (and new book by the same name) explores how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. The paper examines structural and symbolic violence, medicalization, and the clinical gaze as they affect the experiences and perceptions of a vertical slice of indigenous Mexican migrant farmworkers, farm owners, doctors, and nurses. This work analyzes the ways in which socially structured suffering comes to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care, especially through imputations of ethnic body difference.

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Monday, December 2, 2013 | 12pm - 1pm

Eric Verhoogen

Organizational Incentives and Technology Adoption among Manufacturing Firms: Evidence from Pakistan

Eric Verhoogen, Economics, Columbia University


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All events are located at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley.

TO ATTEND AN EVENT, PLEASE R.S.V.P. Myra Armstrong, zulu2@berkeley.edu