Hard Work Is Not Enough

Gender and Racial Inequality in an Urban Workspace

By Katrinell M. Davis

196 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 tables, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3048-9
    Published: January 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3047-2
    Published: January 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3049-6
    Published: November 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4906-9
    Published: November 2016

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The Great Recession punished American workers, leaving many underemployed or trapped in jobs that did not provide the income or opportunities they needed. Moreover, the gap between the wealthy and the poor had widened in past decades as mobility remained stubbornly unchanged. Against this deepening economic divide, a dominant cultural narrative took root: immobility, especially for the working class, is driven by shifts in demand for labor. In this context, and with right-to-work policies proliferating nationwide, workers are encouraged to avoid government dependency by arming themselves with education and training.

Drawing on archival material and interviews with African American women transit workers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Katrinell Davis grapples with our understanding of mobility as it intersects with race and gender in the postindustrial and post–civil rights United States. Considering the consequences of declining working conditions within the public transit workplace of Alameda County, Davis illustrates how worker experience--on and off the job--has been undermined by workplace norms and administrative practices designed to address flagging worker commitment and morale. Providing a comprehensive account of how political, social, and economic factors work together to shape the culture of opportunity in a postindustrial workplace, she shows how government manpower policies, administrative policies, and drastic shifts in unionization have influenced the prospects of low-skilled workers.

About the Author

Katrinell M. Davis is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Vermont.
For more information about Katrinell M. Davis, visit the Author Page.


“An important case study and a worthwhile read that makes clear how economic, organizational, and social conditions dramatically shape the work experiences of African-American female transit workers and how individual hard work is necessary but not sufficient for changing this reality.”--American Journal of Sociology

“An illuminating case study of the experiences of African American women in an important American occupation. By studying African American women transit operators in the San Francisco Bay Area, Katrinell Davis sheds light on broader trends in work and social inequality.”--Arne Kalleberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Katrinell Davis provides a compelling account of the manner in which political, social, and economic factors interact to frame opportunities and inequalities in the postindustrial-era workplace. A substantial contribution that provides a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms related to downward shifts in the structure of work.”--Angela James, Loyola Marymount University