Inequality in Access to Capital

My current book project, Hedged Out, presents an insider’s look at the inner workings of the notoriously rich and secretive hedge fund industry. Hedge funds comprise one of the most lucrative and powerful industries in the U.S. The average pay at hedge funds falls well above the top one percent of earners. Like other high-paying work, women and minority men are underrepresented. Firms managed by white men manage the vast majority—97 percent—of hedge fund investments. I conducted in-depth interviews with 48 workers and field observations at 12 workplaces and 23 industry events from 2013 to 2018. Hedged Out investigates the deep and often-hidden mechanisms preventing women and racial and ethnic minority men from gaining equal access to this wealth.

A second project compares hedge fund, venture capital, and technology startup firms using data from interviews and field observations. The finance and technology sectors have unprecedented access to capital yet cultures that are remarkably different. Even though technology espouses a culture of social disruption and inclusion, technology firms have low numbers of people of color and white women in leadership positions, which makes them neither more diverse nor more inclusive than financial firms. I compare the social organization of the three fields to understand why.

Inequality in the Age of Finance

Finance is an inescapable part of American life. From how one pursues an education, buys a home, runs a business, or saves for retirement, finance orders the lives of ordinary Americans. And as finance continues to expand, inequality soars.

In Divested, Ken-Hou Lin and I demonstrate why widening inequality cannot be understood without examining the rise of big finance. The growth of the financial sector has dramatically transformed the American economy by redistributing resources from workers and families into the hands of owners, executives, and financial professionals. The average American is now divested from a world driven by the maximization of financial profit.

We provide systematic evidence to document how the ascendance of finance on Wall Street, Main Street, and among households is a fundamental cause of economic inequality. They argue that finance has reshaped the economy in three important ways. First, the financial sector extracts resources from the economy at large without providing economic benefits to those outside the financial services industry. Second, firms in other economic sectors have become increasingly involved in lending and investing, which weakens the demand for labor and the bargaining power of workers. And third, the escalating consumption of financial products by households shifts risks and uncertainties once shouldered by unions, corporations, and governments onto families.

A comprehensive account of the forces driving economic inequality in America, Divested warns us that the most damaging consequence of the expanding financial system is not simply recurrent financial crises but a widening social divide between the have and have-nots.

Inequality in the New Economy

Christine Williams and I investigate how precarious working conditions exacerbate gender inequality in the new economy. Over the past 30 years, structural changes to the economy—such as globalization, deregulation, and the decline of unions—have made employment more precarious, unstable, and insecure for workers. In one publication, we consider how the rise of precarious working conditions impacts on men and women, with attention to the implications for gender inequality. In a second piece, we examine gender, feminist activism, and inequality in today’s economy.

Gender in Politics

Another strand of my research examines how gender impacts the careers of women political leaders. My master’s thesis, “Nine Women World Leaders: Sexism on the Path to Power,” explores women presidents and prime ministers’ paths to executive office.

My work has been featured in the American Sociological Association's Work in Progress: Sociology on the Economy, Work, and Inequality blog, the Clayman Institute for Gender Research's Gender News, the Economic Sociology and Political Economy blog, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice's Human Rights Working Paper Series blog , and the UT Austin Soc graduate student blog.