Opportunities for Students

IRLE offers many opportunities for students to engage with and produce top-level research on labor and employment at UC Berkeley.

NEW: BIMI – IRLE Graduate Student Lightning Talks – Call for proposals
“Inequalities & Inclusion” Symposium, May 11, 2018 | 9:00am – 5:00pm

The Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative (BIMI) and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) are excited to announce the BIMI – IRLE Graduate Student Lightning Talks Symposium: “Inequalities & Inclusion.” This event will provide a platform for graduate students to practice presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience, receive valuable feedback from experts in their field, and connect with fellow graduate students from across campus.

For more information and to apply: visit our online application portal. All materials must be received by Monday, April 9. Accepted students will be informed by Friday, April 27.

IRLE Dissertation Fellowship Program

IRLE Dissertation Fellowship Program

Application period for 2018-19 dissertation fellowships has closed. Check back for profiles of our 2018-19 fellows.

IRLE is excited to launch a new IRLE Dissertation Fellowship Program for UC students conducting dissertation projects related to labor and employment. The program will offer an interdisciplinary environment for students to develop their research ideas, receive feedback on written work, and receive training in key aspects of research design, academic writing, and post-PhD career development.

Recipients must be conducting research related to IRLE’s mission and commit to engaging with IRLE’s activities during the 2018-19 academic year. IRLE seeks to promote an interdisciplinary research culture focused on improving the lives of working people, and awards fellowships in a wide range of disciplines.

Fellowship requirements: Fellows must commit to attending weekly meetings during the academic year; submitting written work for feedback by other students and UC Berkeley faculty; and providing commentary on the work of other fellows.

Fellowship Stipend: A yearly stipend of $15,000 divided into ten monthly payments will be provided to each Fellow. This fellowship does not cover tuition and fees, but may be used in combination with another award.

Eligibility: Registered UC Berkeley doctoral students who will have advanced to candidacy by Fall 2018. Students at other UC campuses who are in residence at Berkeley during the 2018-19 academic year may also be considered.

To apply

Please submit a CV, a cover letter that describes your trajectory for conducting research and completing your dissertation; a 5-page dissertation prospectus; and a writing sample (MA paper or other individual work). Your advisor should submit a letter attesting to your time to completion and expected scholarly contribution.

Contact Sara Hinkley, IRLE Associate Director, at hinkley@berkeley.edu with any questions.

2017-18 IRLE Dissertation Fellows
Benjamin Shestakofsky

Benjamin Shestakofsky

Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley

Research: His research centers on how digital technologies are affecting work and employment, organizations, and economic exchange. Benjamin’s dissertation contributes to debates surrounding artificial intelligence and the future of work by examining the co-evolution of software algorithms and human labor at a high-tech startup company. The findings show how the dynamism of the organizations in which software algorithms are produced and implemented will contribute to human labor’s enduring relevance in the digital age.

Contact: bshestakofsky@berkeley.edu

Abhay Aneja

Abhay P. Aneja

Ph.D. Candidate at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley

Research: Abhay’s research centers on how the political rights of historically marginalized minority subpopulations translates into concrete economic progress. He seeks to understand whether minority political empowerment is linked to economic opportunity in the form of labor market gains for the historically disenfranchised. His dissertation project uses the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to examine how the re-enfranchisement of black Americans contributed to their improved labor market performance over the 20th century.

Contact: aneja@berkeley.edu

Daniel Haanwinckel

Ph.D. Candidate in Economics at UC Berkeley

Research: Daniel specializes in labor economics, international trade, and development economics, with a broad interest in the determinants of wage inequality and unemployment. His current research investigates assortative matching in labor markets (skilled workers being matched to high-paying firms, and the opposite for unskilled workers). Sorting patterns have recently been isolated as important drivers of wage inequality, but little is known about why those patterns have changed in the last decades. Possible causes studied in this project include the skill composition of the workforce, changes in productivity, and skill-biased technical change. In previous research, Daniel has studied labor informality in developing countries.

Dissertation Title: Task-Based Production, Firm Heterogeneity, and Inequality

Contact: haanwinckel@berkeley.edu

Alessandra Fenizia

Ph.D. Candidate in Economics at UC Berkeley

Research: Alessandra is interested in labor economics, political economy and development economics. Her research focuses on the role of incentives in increasing productivity in the public sector.

About her project: “In many countries, public sector workers have strong job security and weak monitoring. Advancements in seniority and compensations are typically scheduled based on tenure, and are not tied closely to individual performance. While several authors have studied how workers respond to incentives in the private sector, little is known about how to best incentivize public sector workers. My research focuses on how recent reforms to the Italian Public Sector have impacted public sector employees’ productivity using a novel dataset.”

Dissertation Title: Incentives and workers’ productivity in the Public Sector

Contact: afenizia@econ.berkeley.edu

2016-17 IRLE Dissertation Fellows

Caitlin Fox-Hodess

Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley

Research: Her research examines contemporary international solidarity among dockworkers’ unions in Europe and Latin America.

Dissertation Title: Dockworkers of the World Unite: Transnational Class Formation and the New Labor Internationalism


Mathias Poertner

Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at UC Berkeley

Research: His research interests include comparative politics, political economy, political representation, labor politics, multi-method research, and causal inference. His research analyzes how different types of linkages forged between diverse class-based organizations, such as labor unions, informal sector unions, and peasant unions, and new political parties shape the degree and form of institutionalization of these new parties, i.e. whether they are able, over time, to take root in society, establish stable ties with voters, successfully compete in elections.

Dissertation Title: Changing World of Work, Societal Linkages, and New Political Parties in Latin America


Jeff Sorensen

Ph.D. Candidate in Economics at UC Berkeley

Research: Jeff specializes in labor economics. His research interests include job loss and the role of firms in workers’ labor-market outcomes. He estimates the layoff rules of 4,400 downsizing establishments and find significant trends in layoff rules over time and the business cycle. I then use my estimated layoff rules to test a model of asymmetric employer learning, finding that workers laid off using seniority layoff rules experience smaller earnings losses, since these layoffs do not serve as a negative signal of workers’ productivity.

Dissertation Title: Layoff rules and the cost of job loss: Testing for asymmetric employer learning

Events and Meeting Space
IRLE hosts regular lectures and conferences, where guest speakers, faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars present on a variety of topics. We also provide seminar space for faculty and students to hold events. If you would like to use our space contact Charlotte Rutty: (510) 642-3651, charlotterutty@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program
Read about the program »

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