Dissertation Fellows

2018-19 Fellows
Laura Boudreau

Laura Boudreau

Ph.D. candidate in Business and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

Dissertation: Giving workers a voice inside the firm through private sector enforcement of labor law

Laura’s research interests include labor markets, public and private sector regulation and enforcement, and broader political economy questions in developing countries. Her dissertation research focuses on the role of the private sector in the enforcement of labor laws in Bangladesh, in particular in Bangladesh’s garment sector. She also has several other ongoing projects related to worker empowerment and wellbeing in Bangladesh’s garments sector. Prior to beginning her PhD at Berkeley, Laura was a staff member in The World Bank’s Financial and Private Sector Development Vice Presidency, where she spent three years. Laura graduated from the University of Pennsylvania summa cum laude with a B.S. in Economics and a Minor in French Studies.

In low-income countries, the government may lack the ability and/or willingness to pass and to enforce labor regulation. In her dissertation research, Laura asks whether private sector efforts to enforce local labor law can achieve greater regulatory compliance in the absence of effective government-supplied enforcement. Specifically, she evaluates multinational retail and apparel firms’ efforts to enforce local labor laws on their suppliers in Bangladesh. Laura uses a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to study their program to achieve garment factories’ compliance with a law requiring establishment of worker-manager Safety Committees. The labor regulation intends to increase worker voice in health and safety decision-making inside the firm. She analyzes impacts on factories’ compliance levels and economic outcomes and on workers’ voice and welfare.

Contact: lboudreau@berkeley.edu


Jessie Halpern-Finnerty

Jessica Halpern-Finnerty

Ph.D. candidate in Geography at UC Davis

Dissertation: Inter-firm contracting, jobs, and inequality in the U.S.

Jessica has worked as a research and policy associate at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education since 2010, on projects related to the future of work and the green economy. Previously, she worked at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy in Madison, WI, and completed a master’s degree in international public affairs at UW-Madison.

Her dissertation examines inter-firm contracting in the US and its relationship to inequality. The project includes a quantitative analysis of inter-firm contracting and wages in the US, as well as a mixed-methods regional case study focused on food services contracting in Silicon Valley.

Contact: jesshf@berkeley.edu


Kevin Todd

Kevin Todd

Ph.D. candidate in the Economics at UC Berkeley

Dissertation: Mergers and Acquisitions and the Labor Market (Germany 1992-2014)

Kevin is a labor economist from Chelsea, Michigan. His research examines how mergers and acquisitions affect workers. He also studies job search and discrimination.

Contact: ktodd@econ.berkeley.edu


Christopher Carter

Christopher Carter

Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at UC Berkeley

Dissertation: How traditional institutions shape use of temporary employment programs: evidence from Peru

Chris’s research focuses on how governments address income volatility and unemployment. One strand of his research focuses on the regulation of gig employment with specific reference to Uber in the United States. A second strand, which includes his dissertation, focuses on the ways in which local governments in Latin America respond to rural unemployment. Often, governments have used the unskilled labor of the unemployed to produce public works, sometimes through the generation of short-term, paid work (through temporary employment programs) and sometimes through the mobilization of traditional institutions of unremunerated labor. Using a combination of interviews, archival research, natural experiments, and field experiments, he will examine the strategic decision-making of mayors to pursue these respective strategies as well as the downstream effects of these decisions. Chris is also a research associate at the Center on the Politics of Development at UC Berkeley.

Contact: christopher.carter@berkeley.edu


Thomas Peng

Thomas Peng

Ph.D. Candidate in Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley

Dissertation: Working Outside of the World “Factory”: Service Work, Inclusive Social Programs and Community Politics of the Chinese Internal Migrant Workers

Throughout his graduate study, he has been interested in how the daily life experience (or politics of everyday life) and work experience (or politics of production) interact with each other. His dissertation project, in particular, explores how the career experience of Chinese internal migrants shapes the social relations within urban poor neighborhoods/ migrant enclaves, and how this community-level social formation is interrelated with grassroots governance.

Before coming to Berkeley, Thomas received his M.A. in sociology and China studies from National Tsinghua University in Taiwan. His academic interests include labor process, work and occupation, (uneven) development and the Chinese working people, both within and outside of industrial sector.

Contact: tfpeng@berkeley.edu


Abhay Aneja

Abhay P. Aneja

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

Dissertation: The Labor Market Effects of Minority Political Empowerment: Evidence from the Voting Rights Act

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

2017-18 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

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 Fellows
Fox-Hodess

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


Poertner

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


Sorensen

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