Shengwei Sun

Doctoral Candidate

My research is driven by an interest in understanding how changing socioeconomic contexts – such as shifting labor market structures and social organization of care – shape gender, race, and class inequalities in both work and family arenas in different national settings. With support from the NSF dissertation improvement grant, my current research focuses on the expanding paid care work sector as a key terrain for examining intersecting inequalities in the U.S. and China. I am also involved with a research project examining how local economic contexts moderate the racial and class disparities in family formation and unemployment dynamics among young adults. My interest in precarious employment led me to engage in another ongoing project that investigates the changing association between job quality and wages in the context of increasing proliferation of low-paid, precarious jobs in the U.S.

Another line of my research seeks to advance both theoretical and empirical understanding of the changing, multifaceted gender inequality during China’s transformation from socialism to a market economy. To this end, I employ various methodologies, including: 1) systematic content analysis of mainstream magazine articles to examine the changing gender discourse in post-socialist urban China (published in the Journal of Marriage and Family); 2) longitudinal survey analysis to examine cohort variations in urban women’s employment trajectories (published in Social Science Research); and 3) theoretically grounded review on the continuity and change in the patterns and sources of gender inequality (published in Sex Roles).


Intersecting Inequalities in the Paid Care Work Sector Under Changing Social and Economic Contexts

My dissertation aims to provide a better understanding of intersecting inequalities for paid care workers under changing social and economic contexts, with two papers focusing on the United States, and the third paper on post-socialist urban China. In the United States, men’s presence in female-dominated care work jobs is rare despite the fact that jobs in education and health care are growing fast, while traditionally male-dominated manufacturing jobs are disappearing. The first paper of my dissertation uses nationally representative, individual-level data to examine the relative strength of cultural and structural determinants in predicting men’s transition into care work jobs that are typically considered to be “women’s work.” Second, care work jobs have been increasingly polarized in terms of pay, working conditions, and job security since the 1970s, and this polarizing pattern of care work job growth is characterized by racial disparity. My second paper examines the factors contributing to such racialized polarization pattern of care work job growth. Situated in the context of China, the third paper examines how the changing social organization of care and employment policies during China’s market reform affect the wage outcome for paid care workers.

Areas of Interest:
  • Gender, Race and Class
  • Labor Market Inequalities
  • Work and Family
  • Care Work
  • Social Demography
  • Life Course
  • MA Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park, 2014
  • BA Politics & Gender Studies, Scripps College, 2012
Course Name Course Title Semester Syllabus
SOCY 100 Introduction to Sociology Fall 2014
1104 Art/Sociology Building
Department of Sociology