Social Capital, Organizational Context, and the Job Market

  • Spalter-Roth, Roberta (PI)
  • Mayorova, Olga O.V. (CoPI)
  • Senter, Mary (CoPI)

    Grant Details


    Social Capital, Organizational Context, and the Job Market

    SES - 1054651

    Roberta Spalter-Roth, Olga Mayorova

    American Sociological Association

    Mary Senter

    Central Michigan University


    Universities are concerned about losing out in the competition for undergraduate majors, even though longitudinal studies show that students are excited by scientific concepts they learn in introductory courses. According to the literature in the field, more than half of job seekers find their positions through personal ties and social connection (social capital). The concepts of social capital and social ties have become central to the core of sociological thinking, and the theoretical purpose of this study is to test and refine this thinking. However, disagreement persists within this literature about the types of ties that are used by diverse population groups in the job search process, and about the benefit of these ties. More recently, a rising number of studies have examined the importance of understanding the organizational context in which social ties are activated.

    This study has three goals. First, to advance our understanding of the types of network ties including family, school, and other ties (strong or weak) used by diverse groups of individuals as they search for and attain jobs. Second, to investigate the organizational context in which school ties are developed and whether academic departments provide resources to help students gain ties. A longitudinal survey of the college class of 2011 will provide the basis for testing the impact of different types of student social capital on their post-graduate job search and placement, as well as the role organizational context plays in shaping those ties. As a case in point, the study focuses on Sociology majors, who tend to be found in a wide variety of occupations. Thus, the third goal of this study is to examine whether majors perceive that the jobs they obtain reflect their original field of training and, finally, whether these jobs can be characterized into specific scientific or applied occupational fields and sectors. The practical focus of this study is whether network ties that are encouraged by academic departments lead majors to jobs in the field. We will test a series of hypotheses about the type of social capital (network ties) seniors use when searching for jobs, the context in which these social ties develop, and how types of ties vary by race, ethnicity and gender.

    Broader Impacts

    This study has broader implications for several stakeholders. Institutions of higher education have a vested interested in understanding the school-to-work transition. A lack of understanding about how academic majors search for and secure jobs, and the kind of social connections that help graduates in this process, can result in arts and science departments losing majors to more vocationally-oriented programs and institutions. Such loss is also problematic for the science pipeline in general. Moreover, given that today's college students are entering a job market with the highest unemployment in a generation, and are saddled with increasing debt, it is reasonable for students and their parents to be concerned about job prospects. Ultimately, potential beneficiaries of this proposed longitudinal study include but are not limited to the approximately 17,000 sociology majors that graduate each year and go directly into the labor market and the society which might benefit from their training and skill set.

    Effective start/end date04/15/1103/31/16


    • National Science Foundation: $205,256.00


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