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I study people and organizations in the 21st century.  My research work develops theory on ownership, organizational change, and worker mobility.  I maintain a specific interest in private equity and workers, both in leveraged buyouts of public companies and buyouts of smaller companies. I joined UIUC in 2024, following a PhD in Sociology at the University of Michigan and a postdoc at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Awards & Fellowships

Selected Research 
Paper Abstracts

The Dual Nature of Owner-driven Reorganization: Private Equity Buyouts, Upgrading vs. Rechanneling, and Worker Earnings Amid waves of buyouts, activist investors have battered the separation of ownership and control. How does management by financial markets and firms affect worker mobility? I distinguish resource rechanneling, in which organizations shunt resources toward owners at the expense of workers, from managerial upgrading, in which organizations improve operations in a way that magnifies the earnings of higher-educated workers. I then theorize that investor-controlled organizations will pursue resource rechanneling only when financial markets provide opportunities for returns via financial reorganization. Otherwise, they pursue managerial upgrading. I test this argument by matching federal administrative pay data to all private equity buyouts of U.S. publicly traded companies. This allows the first-ever estimates of the effect of private equity on U.S. workers’ pay. I find that buyouts reliably reduce earnings for non-college workers. For college workers, buyouts reduce pay when debt is cheap (resource rechanneling) and raise pay when debt is expensive (managerial upgrading). Greater opportunities for resource rechanneling lead to buyouts of more labor-intensive companies in slower growth industries that respond to private equity buyouts with greater employment shedding. The findings demonstrate how owner-led strategic reorganization depends on environmental conditions that foster specific value capture and creation mechanisms, shaping outcomes for workers.

Work Organization and High-paying Jobs, with Nathan Wilmers and Letian Zhang High-paying factory jobs in the 1940s were an engine of egalitarian economic growth for a generation. Are there alternate forms of work organization that deliver similar benefits for frontline workers? Work organization varies by types of complexity and their degree of employer control. Technical and tacit knowledge tasks receive higher pay for signaling or developing human capital. Higher autonomy tasks elicit efficiency wages. To test these ideas, we match administrative earnings to task descriptions from job postings. We then compare earnings for workers hired into the same occupation and firm, but under different task allocations. When jobs raise task complexity and autonomy, new hires' starting earnings increase and grow faster. However, while half the earnings boost from complex, technical tasks is due to shifting worker selection, worker selection changes less for tacit knowledge tasks and very little for adding high autonomy tasks. We also study which employers provide these jobs: frontline tacit knowledge tasks are disproportionately in larger, profitable manufacturing and retail firms; technical tasks are in newer health and business services; and higher autonomy jobs are in smaller and fast-growing firms. These results demonstrate how organization-level allocations of tasks can undergird high-paying jobs for frontline workers.

Racial Inequality and Bureaucracy in US Manufacturing, with Nathan Wilmers Amid persistent racial inequality, bureaucratic work organization promises fairness: rules and oversight limit racial prejudice. Yet research showing apparent positive effects of bureaucracy for Black workers does not adjust for worker selection. In this project, we compare Black-White earnings inequality in workplaces with two types of bureaucratic organization: structured management practices or unionization. We do so by matching a large survey of US manufacturing establishments to employer-employee linked earnings data. Both types of bureaucratic workplaces pay relatively more to Black workers than do non-bureaucratic workplaces. This holds even within narrow industries and labor markets and among firms of a similar size and productivity level. However, bureaucracy's disproportionate pay advantages for Black workers stem largely from bureaucratic workplaces more positively selecting Black workers. For structured management practice workplaces, this is due mainly to the disproportionately lower ability of exiting Black workers, rather than to differences in hiring. This project shows how apparent inequality effects of employer practices can be driven by worker selection.

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