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

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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