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Beth Redbird

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Beth Red Bird (Department of Sociology) is an assistant professor with primary research interests in Racial Inequality (particularly Native American inequality); Group Interactions; Occupations and Work; Social Class; and Survey Methodology. In particular, Redbird studies labor market rent, with a special focus on the implications of rent and other forms of closure for inequality. Redbird is also a fellow with the Institute for Policy Research. She received her PhD from Stanford in 2016.

The thread connecting her research is the simple proposition that closure boundaries create inequality by generating rent, and simultaneously alter the relationships within and between bounded groups. In the case of occupations, the enactment of licensing regulation alters the very structure of an occupation. Her work demonstrates that, contrary to established wisdom, licensure does not simply limit competition. Rather, licensure creates a set of institutional mechanisms that alter entry into the occupation, and creates broad structural changes that fundamentally alter the nature and structure of work, tasks, and status, and may well shape the relationship between occupations, the selection of members, and the distribution of rewards.

These changes are so broad that the net effect on wages cannot be known ex ante. Similarly, Native boundaries, including industry closure resulting from gaming and energy projects, and political closure resulting from tribal registration, alter the relationship between tribe, state, and economy. In a simple supply-demand framework, one might hypothesize that tribal monopoly activities, such as casinos, would create a profit for the tribe. However, as with licensing, it is unclear whether this form of closure provides a direct economic advantage. Nonetheless, it does demarcate barriers between tribe and state in a way that can completely restructure relations between the two. The study of both generic rent-generating processes like licensure and highly-specific and tailored closure forms such as those at work in the Native context reveals the startling truth — that these are not simple economic devices, but fundamental institutional forces.

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