Economic inequality and the labor market

Victor Tan Chen, Sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Economic Policy, Economic Sociology, Economy and Society, Labor Economics, Labor Movements, Labor Relations, Labour Market, Methodology and Research Technology, Organization, Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management, Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy, Social Classes and Social Movements, Sociology, Stratification, Work
Keywords - inequality, unemployment, alternative organizations

I completed my PhD in Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard University in 2012 and continued my training as the National Science Foundation and American Sociological Association postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. I am currently a tenured Associate Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

My work to date has been broadly concerned with the subjective experience of rising economic inequality. I have brought this general lens to bear on my research among populations ranging from jobless autoworkers, to families living near the poverty line, to workers seeking cooperative and democratic alternatives to for-profit managerial firms, to—most recently—students pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. I am interested in the impacts that markets, policies, and moral perspectives have on the lives of less advantaged workers and their families, particularly at key moments of transition.

My work has been positively received for its insights into these phenomena. In 2017, I was honored with the Labor and Employment Relations Association’s Outstanding Scholar Award for my research, which includes “Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy” (University of California Press, 2015) and “The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America” (Beacon Press, 2007), the latter written with Katherine S. Newman. A Research in the Sociology of Organizations volume I coedited with Katherine K. Chen, “Organizational Imaginaries: Tempering Capitalism and Tending to Communities through Cooperatives and Collectivist Democracy,” received the 2022 Joyce Rothschild Book Prize from the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations. My next book, under contract with the University of California Press, is titled “Failing Forward: Learning to Innovate in the Entrepreneurial University.” The completed manuscript, now being revised based on reviews, examines entrepreneurial training programs at universities, which my coauthor Jesse Goldstein and I situate within a larger socioeconomic context of dwindling good jobs and tightening investor control.