Age Relations in Small and Medium-Sized Information Technology Firms Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Haviland, Sara Beth
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • I propose an integrated approach to understanding age relations in the new economy, focusing on how age influences new economy workers, and in particular on the effects of social and political structures. I answer the broad question, Does age matter in the new economy? by investigating an industry that is particularly representative - information technology (IT) - using small firm case study data. Drawing on several theoretical traditions, I situate data in broad societal structures, industries, and firms. My focus is less on traditional concerns about ageist attitudes or overt discrimination and more on gaining an understanding of age as an organizing mechanism at work. Risk is a defining feature of the new economy, and to establish the context of the study I compare the experience of risk by US workers to that of workers in other WANE countries. I describe how states protect workers from risk, finding a qualitative difference in how individuals experience worry across welfare regimes. In less generous liberal welfare regimes, individuals feel more vulnerable and firms must take more expensive measures to mitigate employee worry than in more generous liberal regimes. I then focus on age relations in IT, finding that all age groups experience some age designation, both negative and positive. Labor process issues underlie many age issues: the perception of some is that old are managers, or are paid more for doing less work, while the young are fast and cheap workhorses. This suggests that some workplace ageism may be rooted in tensions related to the labor process, and can be described in terms of the political economy perspective and labor process theory. However I also find that job sorting tempers these tensions, providing age accommodation. I end with a discussion of the situation of workers today, who face divisive labor processes, and varying protections from risk at firm and state levels. I find that age does matter at work in this new economy industry; it shapes the experience of workers both positively and negatively, and is intertwined with labor process structures. Age accommodations mitigate the overt display of age conflict in the IT industry.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Sociology."
  • Marshall, Victor W.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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