Universität Bielefeld

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DFG-Project: Organizational Inequalities and Interdependencies Between Capabilities in Work and Personal Life: A Study of Employees in Different Work Organizations

DFG-funded project in cooperation with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB). The data collection is carried out by the SOKO Institute Bielefeld. The project, which is expected to run until December 2020, is headed by Anja Abendroth, Silvia Maja Melzer and Martin Diewald.

Aim of the project is to map professional and private challenges as well as opportunities for employees in today's world and to make a contribution to the mechanism-based explanation of social inequalities. The Relational Inequality Theory forms the frame of reference: a sociological theory that has become increasingly important in theoretical and empirical organizational research and explains how work organizations and their characteristics can reduce or intensify social inequalities.

We extend the current state of research by empirical analyses with a focus on three thematic areas: Income inequalities, interdependencies between work and private life, and employment relationships. We examine which factors at the interface of interactional and organizational mechanisms reduce or strengthen income inequalities in organizations between different groups. Our analyses of occupational and private interdependencies examine organizational mechanisms of inequality genesis for stress- and time-dependent conflicts between areas of life and for the relevance of private burdens for work gratifications. In addition, they take up the discussion on the manifold implications of organizational regulations for the compatibility of areas of life for different employees. Finally, we examine different facets of employment relationships between employees and work organizations at the level of abstract employers as well as direct supervisors or team members. Research on the basis of direct relations between employees and employers can take into account negotiations in the workplace and the relationship between monetary and non-monetary bonuses and benefits even better than occupation-based studies.

The analyses are based on data from an extended linked employer-employee data set with two waves so far. A third wave is currently being added to the data set. In the first year of the survey, the sample comprised 100 work organizations with 6,454 employees and their 2,185 partners, who were surveyed using a short instrument. In the second wave the sample contains 6,338 employees from 107 work organizations (72 initial sample and 35 refreshment sample). By combining IAB company and employee data with our own surveys, we achieve an unique density of information in high case numbers. The longitudinal design makes it possible to better distinguish causal effects and to adequately investigate both processes of self-selection and external selection. This is of central importance, since substantial social mechanisms can only be reconstructed empirically if consequences, causes, moderators and the causal relationships of the influencing factors are identified. In addition, the longer the observation period, the greater the number of family and career-relevant events and the more systematic the analysis of interdependencies between different areas of life can be. The data will be made available to other scientists at the end of the project. The data set is unique in Germany and in international comparison and, beyond the analyses of the project, will certainly represent a valuable resource for research on organizational inequality. The basic principles for this are the coverage of professional structures with a high number of cases as well as detailed information on behavioral patterns and processes within companies.

The data have already been presented at various international conferences, such as the American Sociological Association conference of the Southern Sociological Association and a workshop in Bielefeld with interested researchers. Subsequently, the data have already gained international recognition.

The predecessor project entitled "Interactions between opportunities in professional and private life: A study of employees in different work organizations" was conducted from 2011 - 2015 at the University of Bielefeld (formerly SFB 882, subproject B3). Information on this project can be found here.