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David Grusky’s research on the pandemic in the Stanford News

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Mar 11 2021

Stanford sociologist uncovers the hidden side of pandemic life

Over the past year, the American Voices Project has documented how Americans are experiencing the COVID-19 crisis – from incapacitating anxiety to extraordinary fortitude even in the most harrowing circumstances.

We hear all the time that the pandemic has “cast a sharp light” on American inequality. And indeed it has. But it’s not only exposed long-standing inequalities in the American workforce, it’s also created fundamentally new types of inequality, most notably a stark risk divide between workers in remote and face-to-face occupations, says Stanford sociologist David Grusky.

“We’ve suddenly created a vast swath of risky occupations and thrust them on a labor force that has few options and little choice but to take the offered terms,” Grusky said.

This has given rise to the “noxious contract” that obliges workers – especially low-wage workers with little bargaining power – to accept risky working conditions. These are just some of the findings to emerge from Grusky’s work through the American Voices Project (AVP), a joint initiative led by Stanford and Princeton University to understand how Americans are faring during the current crisis.

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