I am interested in poverty and social policy, gender and work, and the relationship between the two. In recent work, I am concerned with how women’s social interactions guide their economic outcomes. This question is central to my 2013 book, Ain't No Trust: How Bosses, Boyfriends, and Bureaucrats Fail Low-Income Mothers and Why It Matters (University of California Press).
The book provides a qualitative comparison of low-income mothers’ experiences with welfare and low-wage work before and after welfare reform and investigates women’s social interactions with caseworkers, employers, child care providers, romantic partners, and networks of family and friends. I argue that these social interactions produce distrust creating barriers to the very actions reform hoped to promote. Policies that do not address the structural factors that shape these interactions and produce distrust -- particularly the fact that low-income mothers' interests are often at odds with their interaction partners -- will be limited in their ability to truly improve the lives of low-income women and their children.
To learn more about this research, watch my appearance on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry show; or read my essay in Boston Review; or read coverage of the book in Pacific Standard; or see the NBC News interview on the book; or listen to a podcast about the book put out by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; or to an interview with WHYY's Radio Times hosted by Marty Moss-Coane.
In other work, I have studied how informal social interactions between co-workers reinforce formal institutional barriers to sex integration in job titles in a manufacturing plant. I have also investigated the causal links between adolescent motherhood and children’s subsequent outcomes and the relationship between mothers’ and fathers’ occupational traits and children’s occupational aspirations.