College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Sociology

Work, Organizations & Labor Markets


Work- whether paid or unpaid - is a fundamental feature of a person’s life.  Nearly all U.S. adults are engaged in some form of paid work and work defines one’s identity and provides a source of social ties.   Paid work affects one’s standard of living and its absence is a contributing factor to social inequality.  At the same time, differences in where whites and minorities and women and men work and how they are treated by employers are a major component of race and gender inequality in the U.S.  Not all work is done for pay; in fact, twenty-five percent of the U.S. population is also engaged in some form of unpaid volunteer work (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2007).  

Sociology faculty in the field of Work, Organizations and Labor Markets examine material and cultural factors that mold work, shape organizations, and structure labor markets.  Building strength in the study of Work and Organizations lends momentum to the CLA’s Public Academy.  The CLA is committed to increasing “external funding recognition, and effectiveness of CLA scholars” and to promoting “positive change, locally and globally.”  Priorities for the Public Academy include: “equity, diversity, and social justice; civic engagement; and internationalization and cultural fluency.”  Because work and employment are central to racial, gendered and class inequality, this field of study goes to the heart of public concerns, civic engagement and social justice.  This is not a proposal for a center housed in and unique to Sociology.  On the contrary, the expertise in the Department of Sociology facilitates the creation of a CLA-wide network of scholars examining social justice and social change through a variety of theoretical and methodological lenses and advancing the goals of the Public Academy and CLA planning initiatives.

Because of its relevance to the lives of Americans, the topic of work is at the forefront of what the discipline of sociology views as important.  In fact, the theme of the 2008 American Sociological Association (ASA) annual meeting is “work.”  The discipline has several peer-reviewed journals devoted solely to the topic of work and the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the ASA is among the largest sections.  Several scholars in the Department of Sociology at Washington State University are nationally recognized scholars who address paid work and other types of work, namely volunteer work, and the organizations where paid and volunteer work occur.  Below we describe the cutting edge research on work and organizations that WSU Sociology faculty are engaged in. 

Michael Allen is currently doing research in the sociology of culture but continues to incorporate organizational and institutional theory in his work and studying on the effects of organizational strategies on the process of cultural valorization in the wine industry in both Washington and Australia.

  • Michael P. Allen. 1981. “Power and Privilege in the Large Corporation: Corporate Control and Managerial Compensation”. American Journal of Sociology 86: 1112-1123.
  • Michael P. Allen and Sharon K. Panian. 1982. “Power, Performance, and Succession in the Large Corporation”. Administrative Science Quarterly 27: 538-547.
  • Lincoln, Anne E. and Michael P. Allen. 2004. “Double Jeopardy in Hollywood: Age and Gender in the Careers of Film Actors: 1926-1999”. Sociological Forum 19: 611-631.


Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson primarily examines the development of work-orientations and how they are shaped by social location, anticipated life courses, early work experience, and educational experiences in adolescence and the transition to adulthood. In addition, Dr. Johnson studies the transition to work in adolescence and early adulthood.

  • Johnson, Monica Kirkpatrick, Jeylan T. Mortimer, Jennifer C. Lee and Michael Stern. 2007. “Judgments About Work: Dimensionality Revisited.” Work and Occupations 34:290-317.
  • Johnson, Monica Kirkpatrick. 2004. “Further Evidence on Adolescent Employment and Substance Use: Differences by Race and Ethnicity.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 45:187-97.
  • Johnson, Monica Kirkpatrick. 2002. “Social Origins, Adolescent Experiences, and Work Value Trajectories during the Transition to Adulthood.” Social Forces 80:1307-41.


Julie Kmec’s research focuses primarily on work organizations and their practices. In addition to studying promotions, worker turnover, segregation, pay, and organizational mobility, she is also interested in studying workplace discrimination. She is currently exploring how institutional environments shape the demographic composition of work organizations.

  • Gorman, Elizabeth and Julie A. Kmec. 2009. "Hierarchical Rank and Women's Organizational Mobility: Glass Ceilings in Corporate Law Firms." American Journal of Sociology 114: 1428-74.
  • Hirsh, Elizabeth and Julie Kmec. 2009. "The Impact of Human Resource Structures: Reducing Employers' Discrimination or Raising Employees' Rights Awareness?" Industrial Relations 48(3):512-32.
  • Kmec, Julie A. and Sheryl L. Skaggs. 2009. "Organizational Variation in Equal Employment Opportunity Structures.” Sociological Forum 24: 47-75.


Thomas Rotolo conducts research on volunteering and voluntary associations. He also maintains research interests in social networks, quantitative techniques, and the sociology of sport.

  • Rotolo, Thomas and John Wilson. 2007. "The Effects of Children and Employment Status on the Volunteer Work of American Women." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. 36: 487-503
  • Rotolo, Thomas and John Wilson. 2007. "The Division of Volunteer Labor." Sociological Quarterly. 48:559-585.
  • Rotolo, Thomas and John Wilson. 2006. "Substitute or Complement? Spousal Influence on Volunteering." Journal of Marriage and Family 68: 305-319


Amy S. Wharton has longstanding interests in the areas of gender inequality, organizations, and work. Her most recent work examines the adoption, implementation, and institutionalization of work-family policies in U.S. corporations.

  • Wharton, Amy S. and Mary Blair-Loy. 2006. “Long Work Hours and Family Life: A Cross-National Study of Employees’ Concerns”. Journal of Family Issues.
  • Wharton, Amy S. 2006. “Understanding Diversity of Work in the 21st Century and Its Impact on the Work-Family Area of Study”. Pp. 17-40 In The Work-Family Handbook: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives and Approaches, edited by Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Ellen Kossek, and Stephen Sweet. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.





Work - whether paid or unpaid - is a fundamental feature of a person’s life.  Nearly all U.S. adults are engaged in some form of paid work, and work defines one’s identity and provides a source of social ties. 







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