Thursday , January 28 2021

Devah Pager, a sociologist from Harvard who documented bias at employment dies at 46

In the stories of homeless men, Devah Pager experienced seeds for the studies documenting discrimination of employment that bounces men with a prison conviction and confronts all African-American men – even those with a clean record.

The results "show that it is a black applicant without criminal background The prices are no better – and maybe worse – than a white felony conviction applicant, "she wrote in" Marked ", her award-winning 2007 book.

"The impact of the breed can be as large or larger than a criminal record is shocking to those who see direct racial discrimination as a force in decline," she added. "But for the millions of young black men who notice the tense expressions or folded wallets in their daily interactions with white, this is a little surprise."

A professor at Harvard University and a rising star in sociology were Dr. Pager diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago. She was 46 when she died in her home Cambridge on November 2th.

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At a time of historically high infarction rates, millions of previously convicted people try to become employed. Dr Pager's results, colleagues say, highlight the significant consequences of a criminal record for men in the labor market, for their families, and finally for the entire economy.

She designed the study in Wisconsin, where she volunteered with a housing program for homeless and unemployed men. To statistically measure what she had learned anecdotally recruited Dr. Pager four college men – two black, two white – and made them apply for many jobs in the same places. One applicant in each team claimed they had a non-violent felony drug conviction.

"The crimes register's labeling really represents a powerful barrier to employment," she wrote in her book, and racial discrimination was also clear. Black meets "a" two strikes and you're out of "mentality" among potential employers, she added. "To wit is a criminal background a serious strike against them, because black seems to be almost total disqualification."

When the results became known, "there was a whole" ban on the boxing movement "and provided research support for the idea of ​​removing criminal records from job applications," said Bruce Western, a friend and former Harvard colleague, currently a professor at Columbia University.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a guide that a criminal record in itself should not be disqualification for employment. Devah's research was very influential for their thinking, "added Western, who worked with her to replicate her original study with an expanded version in New York City.

Politicians like former presidential candidate Howard Dean invited her research, and the study itself was easy for those outside the academy to understand.

"Making a very elegant, simple study that communicates across the board is actually quite difficult, and I think Devah was a master of it," says Mario L. Small, a sociology professor at Harvard.

"What was clear was the quality of her mind and her reluctance to be convinced of anything but the most robust results," he added.

In fact, colleagues noted that Dr. Pager designed the experiment to produce a best case scenario. She chose men who were sharp and well-spoken to be ex-cons. To present a nominal safe choice for employers, their job hunting can be expected to give the least discrimination.

"It's not so often that a single study in sociology will ever be close to resolving a controversy, but Devah's research on the negative impact of a criminal record comes as close as possible," said Mitchell Duneier, chairman of the Sociological Department at Princeton University.

"She was always the brightest light in the room. She seemed to work on a different level than the rest of us."

They were colleagues when Dr. Pager learned in Princeton, and added that "she was about to train a generation of young researchers who already have a major impact on sociology."

That Dr Pager and her work would make a profound impact were not surprising for those who knew her well.

"She was always the brightest light in the room. She seemed to work on a different level than the rest of us," said Kelly Musick, a Cornell University professor in policy analysis and management who became friends with Dr. Pager when they were University of Wisconsin students.

Dr. Pager "was laser focused on having an impact on the world and the things she cares about. She also had this accessibility about her and this incredible ability to love and give to other people, Musick says.

"It's almost like she had more hours of the day than the rest of us. She really had these very deep commitments to her scholarship, and when life progressed, also to her husband and her son and her colleagues and her many students, Musick added "She always had time."

Devah Iwalani Pager was born in Honolulu in 1972. Her father David Pager was from South Africa and is a computer science professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii. Her mother, Dr. Sylvia Topor Pager, a pediatrician, was from Australia and died in 2015.

"She always had a bubbly character," David said about her daughter. Everyone, children and adults liked her. "

Even as a teenager, Dr. had Pager had the same confidence in what she did, but also the humility that other people's stories were as important as her, said Liana Cosgrove in Cambridge, a friend since they grew up in Honolulu.

Dr. Pager graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She received a master in sociology in 1996 from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and another the following year from Stanford University. Her book "Market" was developed from her doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from which she graduated in 2002.

Formerly a Fulbright Scholar in Paris, Doctor Pager taught at Northwestern University and Princeton before joining the Harvard Faculty more than four years ago. There she directed the interdisciplinary program for inequality and social policy.

At a Thanksgiving dinner nine years ago, she met Mike Shohl, a writer and editor. She was "this amazing person," he said by Dr. Pager, whom he married in 2016. "She was very smart and very funny and beautiful and kind."

Their son Atticus is 5½, and although she had been hospitalized for treatment, Dr. Pager that "she can go out to take Atticus to kindergarten for the first time," said Mike. "It was something she was definitely determined to see, to get him on his way."

In addition to his husband, son and father, Dr. Pager two brothers, Sean of East Lansing, Mich and Chet of London.

Family and friends will meet to celebrate her life at 2 December in the First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church in Cambridge.

Dr. Pager that people encountered at work was no different than she was at home. "Devah really was a ray of light in academic society," Western said. "She was just so beloved."

And at home with her son and husband, Mike wrote in a tribute, "Even though she helped save the world, she was the driving force of our little family, every day as she was the most dedicated, compassionate, loving mother and wife."

In a Facebook mail, Cosgrove reminds Dr. Pager "told me" People often say that when they get a cancer diagnosis, it inspires them to start living their lives more vividly and passionately. But I've always lived my life that way. ""

Bryan Marquard can be reached at [email protected]

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