media: EconTalk Podcast with Russ Roberts

Economists often oppose the expansion of licensing in America in recent years because it makes it harder for people with low skills to get access to opportunity. Sociologist Beth Redbird of Northwestern University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a different perspective. Redbird finds that licensing expands opportunity for women and minorities and […]

note: Occupational Licenses and Military Veterans

Recently, it has come to the attention of lawmakers, researchers, and the media that transitions from military to civilian employment may be hindered by licensing laws.  Since 2008, numerous states have passed laws intended to help resolve the issue.  Here they are:   CO H 1162 2008 Military Spouse Interim […]

misc: Shortest Research Paper in History

All academics should strive for brevity as well as comprehensibility.  The shortest academic paper in history was written by Dennis Upper in 1974. Upper, like many academics, suffered from writers block. Upper decided to apply the scientific method to the issue of writer’s block to see if he could treat […]

news: Pursuing new viewpoints in the study of inequality

IPR Faculty Spotlight: <<Read It>> How do political elites speak to people about political and economic policy? There is often a vast economic divide between those elites and their voters, yet Redbird argues that a “conversation” takes place between them nonetheless. Her newest research project thoroughly examines this conversation, in […]

news: The Positive Side of Licensing Barbers

Imposing requirements on certain kinds of work could actually be a better deal for consumers. by Justin Fox Bloomberg View <<<Read It >>> Occupational licensing, Milton Friedman declared in his 1962 classic “Capitalism and Freedom,” is an affront to freedom and a check on economic dynamism — a modern, Western […]

video: How We Say It…

What we say conveys information, but so does how we say it.  Phonetic features (how speech is formed and pronounced) play into what we hear, how we understand, and what we think of the speaker.  

About the Data

The Northwestern Licensing Database Licensing data is derived from an extensive coding of occupational legislation and regulations, enacted federally and across all 50 states from 1970 to 2017, and across all occupations classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Standard Occupational Classification system (SOC). During this time period, thousands of […]

news: IPR Welcomes Eight New Fellows

This September, IPR will welcome eight new fellows, one of its biggest incoming faculty cohorts ever. With research interests ranging from the economics and politics of developing countries to identity development and social inequality, these eight experts represent five disciplines, with six housed in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and […]

news: New faculty unpack Indigenous issues, both past and present

“Northwestern has the resources, the cultural structure and the ability to be a leader in the way universities interact with Native Americans and Native issues,” sociology professor Beth Redbird says. “And I’ve been really pleased with the way Northwestern has embraced Native studies.” Read Fully Story

course: Social Inequality

This course examines inequality in American society with an emphasis on race, class, and gender.  Lectures emphasize the mechanisms through which inequality develops and comes to be seen as legitimate, natural, and desirable.  We will also examine the economic, social, and political consequences of rising inequality.  We will place special […]

course: Class and Culture

Course covers economic, social, and political causes and consequence of class in America.  Topics include: class culture, education, recent social protests, including Occupy and Tea Party, and the 2016 presidential election.  Emphasizes ways that social class shapes the background and experiences of current Northwestern students and what their future will […]

paper: The New Closed Shop? The Economic and Structural Effects of Occupational Licensing

  During the past few decades, licensure, a state-enforced mechanism for regulating occupational entry, quickly became the most prevalent form of occupational closure. Broad consensus among researchers is that licensure creates wage premiums through creation of economic monopolies. This article demonstrates that, contrary to established wisdom, licensure does not limit […]

chapter: Rent, Rent-Seeking, and Social Inequality

The compensation paid out to workers reflects: (a) the value of their contribution to the firm or organization; and (b) a possible premium because of restrictions on competition. The latter restrictions, which may take the form of corruption or monopolies that preclude labor from freely flowing throughout the economy, allow […]

Native American Inequality in the 21st Century

I am currently engaged in a systematic assessment of Native American inequality, a setting in which the forces of rent and closure are again substantial. This project responds to a regrettable lack of examination of Native socio-economic well-being. This project provides the largest comprehensive examination in three decades of the […]

Loneliness of Affluence

Individuals live simultaneously in a variety of social worlds.  Micro groups such as neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, churches, and associations, which are embedded in meso communities and macro societies.  Individuals are not passive in their choices of which of these worlds to inhabit; they seek out some environments while avoiding others. […]

Occupational Closure and Inequality

Over the last three decades, there has been a weakening of institutions that historically allowed workers to capture rents, in particular the loss of collective bargaining power once held by unions, and the stagnation of the minimum wage. Rent exists wherever demand for labor exceeds supply because that supply is […]


A Native American tribe is doing exactly the opposite of what you’d think they’d do: they’re kicking people out of the tribe, huge numbers of them, including people whose ancestors without question were part of the tribe. And the story of a white guy who only wants to date Asian […]

movie: Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles is a documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis that reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the largest privately-owned house in America, a 90,000 sq. […]

paper: Distributional Effects of the Great Recession: Where Has All the Sociology Gone?

We review the main distributional effects of the Great Recession and the ways in which those effects have been organized into narratives. The Great Recession may affect poverty, inequality, and other economic and noneconomic outcomes by changing individual-level behavior, encouraging the rise of new social movements or reviving older ones, […]

paper: What Drives Indian Poverty?

In the past thirty years, growth in Native American educational attainment has surpassed that of non-Hispanic whites.  Despite these gains, poverty has only increased.  During this time, several important developments proliferated across Indian country, including gaming and energy projects, expanded social and health services, new forms of tribal governance, and […]

course: Classics of Modern Social Theory

The course explores the modern social world and current economic, political and social debates. Students will use the foundations of social theory to analyze, discuss, and write well-reasoned arguments addressing large societal changes happening today. Essentially, students will learn to think like sociologists. Topics may include: the problem of social […]

news: So You Think You Can Be a Hair Braider?

Jestina Clayton grew up in a village in Sierra Leone where every girl learns traditional African hair-braiding. Then, when she was 22, she moved to Centerville, Utah, a place where no one learns traditional African hair-braiding. So Clayton was pleasantly surprised to find a niche in the market among a […]

course: Sociology of the Middle Class

Course covers economic, social, and political causes and consequences of class in America. Topics include: class culture; education; recent social protests, including Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party; and the 2012 presidential election. Emphasizes ways that social class shapes the background and experiences of current Stanford students and what […]

course: Sociology of the Great Recession

Course covers economic, social, and political consequences of the recession. Topics Include: inequality; job prospects for college graduates; marriage/divorce; immigration; the 2012 presidential election; and modern populist movements. (Stanford Summer 2012 and Fall 2013; instructor-designed course).   | Syllabus | Course Evaluations |

report: How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford?

This study examines whether a college degree protected these recent graduates from a range of poor employment outcomes during the recession, including unemployment, low-skill jobs, and lesser wages. The report draws upon data from the 2003–2011 Current Population Survey (CPS) to examine the early labor market outcomes of 21- through […]