Economic Sociology Seminars

Seminars take place on Wednesdays 4:00-5:30 p.m in room E62-450 and also over Zoom unless otherwise noted. Please contact Jessica Lipsey ( for additional details, or if you wish to be added to the mailing list to receive updates. 

Spring 2023

  • February 22, 2023

    Oliver Hahl, Associate Professor of Organization Theory, Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, 

    Seeking Only the Best: How Hometown Pressures Influence (East-)Asian Americans’ Status Aspirations

    Research has shown that Asian Americans tend to pursue membership in higher status organizations at higher rates than do Americans of other ethnic heritage. However, most of this research has focused on differences across those with different ethnicities, leaving unanswered the mechanisms that create differences in status aspirations among Asian Americans. We argue that the population density of an individual’s hometown will have an inverted U-shaped relationship with status pursuit as initial increases in population density will increase social comparison and norm conformity within the group, until the group is large enough for subgroups to emerge and norm enforcement to decrease. We show this effect for those Americans of East Asian descent but not South Asian descent in the context of post undergraduate job application patterns among Asian Americans at an elite university in the United States. While some previous work has treated status aspirations as a trait or monolithic feature of all Asian Americans, this paper shows that status aspirations can differ by different subgroups of Asian Americans and by the amount of social identification and group size of the community of Asian Americans within which an individual is raised.

  • March 8, 2023

    Erin Leahey, Professor and Director of Sociology, University of Arizona

    What types of novelty are most disruptive? 

    Novelty and impact are key characteristics of the scientific enterprise. Classic theories of scientific change distinguish among different types of novelty, and emphasize how a new idea interacts with previous work and influences future flows of knowledge. However, even recently developed measures of novelty remain unidimensional, and continued reliance on citation counts captures only the amount – but not the nature – of scientific impact. To better align theoretical and empirical work, we attend to different types of novelty (new results, new theories, and new methods) and whether a scientific offering has a consolidating form of influence (bringing renewed attention to foundational ideas), or a disruptive one (prompting subsequent scholars to overlook them). By integrating data from the Web of Science (to measure the nature of influence) with essays written by authors of Citation Classics (to measure novelty type), and by joining computational text analysis with statistical analyses, we demonstrate clear and robust patterns between type of novelty and the nature of scientific influence. As expected, new methods tend to be more disruptive, whereas new theories tend to have a more consolidating influence. Surprisingly, new results do not have a robust effect on the nature of scientific influence. 

  • March 15, 2023

    Mandy Pallais, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, 

    Friendship Formation and the Missing Market

    Roughly one third of full-time workers 18-35 would forgo a 15% raise for more friends, while the U.K. and Japan have appointed Ministers for Loneliness. When many people want more friends, what prevents friendships from forming? We propose that finding a friend is a costly search process. Friendships rely on intermediaries (like schools, churches, and sports leagues) that bundle interactions with potential friends with utility-generating activities. Individuals would be better intermediaries, but while firms can be compensated for making introductions, individuals can’t. We propose that an inability to compensate friends leads to inefficiently few friendships. 

    A field experiment shows that incentivizing individuals to organize events generates friendships. We hosted a free four-week trivia competition, where Ph.D. students signed up in teams of six. Due to capacity constraints, only some (randomly-selected) teams that signed up were admitted. Four months later, acquaintance pairs who signed up on the same team were much more likely to be friends (23 pp) and text in the given week (17 pp) if they were admitted to the trivia competition (treatment) than if they were rejected (control). Consistent with a learning model, the effects are concentrated among acquaintances initially uncertain about match quality. The treatment reduces this uncertainty. We also provide suggestive evidence that there are inefficiently few friend introductions.

  • March 22, 2023

    Marion Fourcade, Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

    "Cloudy Lessons: Rethinking Public Education during the Pandemic."

    The public health policies associated with the COVID-19 pandemic led many organizations to shut down their operations or abruptly move them online. In the United States, a majority of public schools pivoted to "distance learning," often for months on end. In this presentation, I will show that this "great online migration" reveals in stark fashion the complex ways in which the forces of technological innovation interact with the behavior of the populations schools depend upon (teachers) and serve (students, families). It also brings to the fore the latent dependency of basic public good provision on an increasingly complex field of technology vendors, all eager both to “disrupt” and reinvent them, and to capitalize on a large and lucrative market. 

  • April 19, 2023

    Adam Goldstein, Assistant Professor Department of Sociology and The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

    The Zillow Effect? Public School Ratings, Residential Place Discrimination, and the Limits of Algorithmic Rationalization

    This study assesses the effects of public school ratings on families’ demand for residences across school attendance areas. Specifically, to what extent is the documented tendency for White families to avoid locating to (otherwise similar) school attendance areas with greater proportions of Black and Hispanic students diminished or maintained when popular real estate search tools incorporate test-based school ratings? Does algorithmic rationalization weaken racial discrimination as an organizing mechanism of selection behavior at the school-housing nexus? We test this hypothesis by drawing on a unique dataset at the level of primary school attendance areas (SABs) from 2010-2017. The analysis uses a difference-in-differences design to estimate differential changes in both White and Asian families’ home purchase rates across SABs with equal ratings but variable shares of Black and Hispanic students following the 2012 rollout of GreatSchools’ ratings in’s real estate search portal. The findings show no diminishment in White and Asian families’ avoidance of highly-rated schools with larger shares of Black and/or Hispanic students following publicization of the ratings. Algorithmic school ratings do significantly reshape demand for housing across school attendance areas, but not to the extent that they weaken the effect of racial place discrimination. Implications for studies of quantification, education, and racialized markets are discussed. 

  • May 3, 2023

    Per Engzell, Associate Professor of Sociology, UCL Social Research Institute, University College London, and Associate Member of Nuffield College, University of Oxford. 

    Firms and the Intergenerational Transmission of Labor Market Advantage

    Pay inequality stems both from firm pay-setting and from workers' individual characteristics. Yet, intergenerational mobility research focuses on transmission of individual traits, and has failed to test how firms shape the inheritance of inequality. We study this question using three decades of Swedish population register data, and decompose the intergenerational earnings correlation into firm pay premiums and worker effects. One quarter of the intergenerational earnings correlation at midlife is explained by sorting between firms with unequal pay. Employer or industry inheritance account for a small share of this firm-based earnings transmission. Instead, high-education and high-occupation workers disproportionately land at high-paying firms. Parental referral networks and the inheritance of industry and labor market context play a supplementary role. As workers with high-education or high-status jobs are increasingly also employed at high paying firms, firm sorting could become increasingly important to intergenerational earnings transmission.