Work, Sociability, And Inequality

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sorenson, Olav


Workplaces are usually sociable environments, and social interactions between coworkers are consequential. Workers enjoy positive social interactions with coworkers, some employers promote sociability at work, and through social interactions workers form useful social connections. Social networks differ, on average, by gender, with male-dominated networks conferring more social resources than female-dominated networks. Workplaces and occupations structure informal interactions, just as they do formal work interactions. This dissertation examines how workplaces and jobs shape sociable interactions between workers, when those interactions are consequential, and whether the contexts in which workers socialize shape gender inequalities in important labor market outcomes. To do so it uses interaction data from the American Time Use Survey to develop a new measure of coworker sociability. Chapter 2 examines how workplaces and occupations influence sociability. It shows that socializing with coworkers is strongly patterned by workplaces and occupations. Three sets of mechanisms explain the relationship between work and sociability: selection into jobs, job characteristics, and workplace relations. Chapter 3 focuses on how and when sociability is consequential for workers' earnings. It shows that socializing outside the workplace is associated with higher earnings, while socializing at work, when socializing may be perceived to replace work tasks, is associated with lower earnings. The penalty disappears in occupations with a culture of sociability, suggesting that sociability may be an important facet of cultural fit. The returns to sociability for women are, on average, higher than those for men, but this relationship is reversed in highly sociable or male-dominated workplaces. Chapter 4 demonstrates the role of coworker sociability in facilitating gender inequalities in earnings, tenure and promotions. In all three cases, sociability is associated with greater gender inequalities when men predominate in workplaces. Worker-level activity patterns confirm that while women are more sociable than men in non-work contexts, in male-dominated workplaces, women socialize with their coworkers far less frequently than their male colleagues.

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