Lindsay DePalma

BA: UC San Diego, History and Sociology

MA: UC San Diego, Sociology

Areas of specialization: Economic sociology, culture, work & occupations, inequalities, stratification, gender, field methods, religion

I am broadly interested in the intersections of an individual’s economic and sentimental lives.


My dissertation is a mixed methods project in which I analyze the relationship between structure, culture, and expectations of work. Especially in a “new economy” in which work is unstable and the worker is flexible, individuals must constantly negotiate the meaning of work in their lives. This project is concerned with how the changing nature of work affects how professionals define good work, good employers, and good employees, and how they construct the meaning of work in their lives. It asks: how do professionals negotiate the contradictions between cultural narratives about success, agency, and passionate work, and structural changes that render their work precarious? In order to answer this question, I conceptualized two broad experiences of work: Work within the market economy is characterized by more instability, risk, flexibility, and precariousness; Work within the organizations economy is characterized by more stability, less risk, rigidity, and security. Using 74 in-depth interviews, as well as a survey measuring self-identified levels of precarity, I compare professionals who experience work as precarious to those who do not by analyzing three occupations that have positions in both economies: engineers, graphic designers, and nurses. The broad impact of this research is to generate insights about how changes in work are changing workers, which will help to develop new structures that grant employers the flexibility and skills that the market demands and grant employees the securities, satisfaction, and cultural coherence they need to thrive in a market economy.


Works in Progress:

DePalma, Lindsay. “The Separation of Economy and Sentiment: A Comparison of How Individuals Actualize Hostile Worlds.”  I argue that individuals pursue varied forms and degrees of separation of their economic and sentimental lives, equipped with disparate tools. This qualitative work emphasizes the institutional forces that encourage or discourage separation. (Under review)

DePalma, Lindsay. “The Sanctity of Money.” This is a qualitative project in which I analyze the relationship between money, sanctity, and taboo. With data from thirty interviews, I argue that analyzing money as a sacred object in American culture may grant scholars a more accurate understanding of an individual’s relationship with money. This paper ends with a discussion about the potential consequences of the sanctity of money and its accompanying taboo, including the perpetuation of social and economic inequalities. (Under review)

DePalma, Lindsay. “The Gendered Effects of Precarious Work.” In preparation.

Various scholars have documented the emergence of unprecedented precariousness in the professional class, and the increasing pressure for individuals to be flexible and adaptive authors of their personal well-being and success. But individuals are not granted equal access or freedom to promote their version of the “good life” and as we know from scholarship on work/life balance, one’s abilities to live up to the moral prescriptions in the workplace are unequally affected by gender and family status. While an individual’s ability to choose their career and do what they love is touted as a victory of postmodernity, gender scholars have identified it as a pernicious new form of inequality. By holding occupation and job security constant, I am able to analyze the enduring ways that gender shapes the expectations, experiences, and negotiations of work for professional women, even under the same occupational opportunities and constraints. Changes in the nature of work are fundamentally disrupting previous arrangements in the spheres of work and home. Understanding the gendered effects of precarious work and self-expression will be critical to identifying and dismantling institutional and cultural roots of gender inequality today.

DePalma, Lindsay and Wendy Liu. “The Effects of Uncertain Career Paths on Professionals’ Goal Setting.” In preparation.

This interdisciplinary mixed methods project asks: How does career uncertainty affect professionals’ goal setting? This question was born out of preliminary analyses of my dissertation data. Preliminary findings suggest that today’s precarious economy affects individuals’ ability or desire to create goals, including career, personal, and relational. The research team therefore hypothesizes that one important and understudied effect of precarious work is diminished goal setting. This reduction may be driven by structural changes rendering economic futures uncertain, as well as cultural changes rendering future happiness difficult to predict. In this project the research team will first analyze my sociological qualitative and quantitative data to develop rich hypotheses about the effects of uncertain career paths on goal setting, and then test the hypotheses with psychological experiments. This interdisciplinary work marries socio-economic literature on uncertainty and risk with psychological and management literature on motivation, decision-making, and goals.  



Graduate Students