P2P: Underpaid But Satisfied

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Narisada, Atsushi and Scott Schieman. 2016. “Underpaid But Satisfied: The Protective Functions of Security.” Work and Occupations. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0730888415625332

Atsushi came Atsushi.Narisadato the Research Practicum with an interest in work and justice. In an ideal world, workers would be paid appropriately for their inputs—but the reality is quite different. Researchers estimate that roughly half of American workers feel underpaid, and note that the perception of under-reward is an important element of chronic stress. Atsushi focused his time in the Research Practicum on answering the questions: What are the consequences of perceived under-reward for employee well-being; and what are the conditions that may neutralize its harmful effects? To address these questions, Atsushi analyzed data from Professor Scott Schieman’s Work, Stress, and Health study. The resulting paper has recently been published online ahead of print in the journal Work and Occupations.

The article reports on analysis of data from a national survey of American workers. Under Professor Schieman’s direction, Atsushi probed the data to understand whether various forms of security functioned to ameliorate the job dissatisfaction of workers who felt they were underpaid. The analysis found that job security, financial security and employment in the public sector neutralize the pain of perceived under-reward but that work autonomy, decision-latitude, and authority did not have the same effect. These findings provide a valuable contribution to the scholarly understandings of distributive justice and theories of equity.

The paper developed over the course of the practicum and benefited greatly from the feedback and suggestions provided by the practicum directors, Professors Adam Green, Candace Kruttschnitt, and Ronit Divonitzer, and the other students in the course. Atsushi submitted a draft of the paper for presentation at the ASA annual meeting and, after it was accepted, presented a practice talk for the ASA in front of faculty and graduate students in the department. The critical feedback advanced the paper further, while also providing the opportunity for him to practice how to handle critical questions in the Q&A.

Atsushi and Professor Schieman submitted the paper to Work and Occupations and received a request for major revisions. The reviewers’ comments were tough—requesting clarifications and reconsiderations of the theoretical framework and methodology. Atsushi says that the revision process pushed him to engage with diverse literature and theoretical ideas more deeply, articulate the theoretical integration more compellingly, and understand the assumptions behind statistical methods more thoroughly. The process required multiple iterations of re-thinking and re-writing, with painstaking attention to detail in both the manuscript and the response memo. It also required many meetings with Professor Schieman and further consultations with Professor Blair Wheaton and Professor Geoffrey Wodtke. The entire process was riddled with emotional highs-and-lows, but it was ultimately a very rewarding experience. After submitting the revisions and a few months of anxious anticipation, the paper received conditional acceptance and was later finally accepted for publication. Atsushi claims he will not forget the excitement he felt when he saw the final product in print.

When asked about what he learned from the process, Atsushi said that, more than anything, the experience of turning a paper into a publication taught him the value of persistence. During the revision process, there were multiple instances where Atsushi felt like he hit a wall. He overcame those obstacles by persistently engaging with ideas, making multiple revisions, and by consulting with Professor Schieman and other faculty. Persistence didn’t mean struggling in isolation; it also meant asking for help when appropriate and learning how to approach leading scholars in the field both in person and through email. As he begins his dissertation research, Atsushi intends to remember and apply the lessons he learned in persistence in addition to the important lessons he learned regarding how to effectively develop research questions, structure a paper, and respond to reviewers.