Research Interests

Work and Labour, Inequality, Gender, Social Policy

My research centres on understanding the dark side of labour markets – inequality and insecurity. Most of us rely on paid employment to get by. However, we do not always work on equal terms, or in ways that provide adequate economic security. I am interested in understanding how entrenched patterns of inequality in the labour market develop and erode, and in the implications of changing employment relations for workers’ prospects for security and mobility.

 Parenting pay gaps: Most mothers in Canada are engaged in paid employment, but gendered norms of parenting and work continue to work to their career disadvantage. At the same time, fathers typically earn more than men without children. Why is this so? Does the kind of organization in which parents work matter? How exactly do differences in organizational practices and structures affect whether and how motherhood limits and fatherhood accelerates career opportunities? Are the dynamics similar or different for men and women in different kinds of jobs and with different qualifications? Much extant research on parenting pay gaps uses individual-level or cross-national data to focus on the micro and macro correlates of (dis)advantage. My research is focusing instead at the intersection of individuals and organizations, using linked employer-employee data to investigate the important ways that organizational dynamics and structures shape career opportunities and barriers for parents. I have several papers currently under review from this project.

Job quality and precarious employment: A second broad strand of my research revolves around questions related to labour market inequalities and economic restructuring. I have investigated the consequences of increasing job mobility on diverging wage trajectories among young workers (American Sociological Review 2008), the impact of government downsizing on the gender wage gap (Canadian Journal of Sociology 2005), and the relationship between temporary employment and wage inequalities at the intersection of gender, ‘race’, and immigration status (Social Indicators Research 2008). I am also particularly interested in understanding the degree to which experiences of employment precarity are transitory or long-term, an issue which I have explored with a number of detailed longitudinal analyses of temporary workers’ employment pathways (Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 2011, Social Science Research 2015, Canadian Review of Sociology 2014). A forthcoming paper pairs analysis of collective agreement provisions with comparison of temporary and permanent worker wage trajectories to explore the degree to which temporary employment represents an axis of segmentation in the public sector. More recently, I have become interested in exploring issues around economic security and unpredictable, non-standard, and variable work hours.

Immigration and Labour Market Integration: As industrialized countries increasingly rely on immigration to sustain labor markets, a key puzzle is to understand how immigrants integrate into the labor force and why some experience more difficulty than others. Are human capital endowments the key? Does the nature of immigrants’ social connections and the resources available within households and ethnic communities make the most difference? How important is the way the established population responds to different ethnic and racial groups? In my line of research on immigration (International Migration Review 2012, 2015), I have focused on understanding what shapes employment trajectories for new immigrants after their arrival in a new country, and the consequences of differences in employment pathways among otherwise similar immigrants.

Inequality, economic security, and social policy: While much of my research has been quantitative, I have also collaborated on longitudinal qualitative research focused on understanding the impact of changing welfare policy on the lives of lone mothers and their children. In particular, I have explored the implications of a shift to “active citizenship” in welfare policy, which has been defined in policy discourse chiefly in terms of citizen obligations to engage in paid employment. In articles in Social Politics (2008), Citizenship Studies (2008), and Critical Social Policy (2010) I have interrogated the meaning of this shift for women in relation to male violence, volunteering, and coercive gendered employment norms. Throughout, I have been concerned with examining not only the gendered assumptions embedded in legislative and policy changes, but also how citizenship is given meaning through mothers’ engagement with its implementation in their daily lives. A further paper in Social Politics (2012) compares a decade of administrative data from two provinces to reveal a medicalizing trend in the classification of welfare recipients and to shed light on the critical gendered effects of ostensibly gender-neutral welfare reform.

Recent Publications

Fuller, Sylvia and Natasha Stecy-Hildebrandt (2015) “Career Pathways for Temporary Workers: Exploring Heterogeneous Mobility Dynamics with Sequence Analysis” SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH 50: 76-99

Fuller, Sylvia and Natasha Stecy-Hildebrandt (2014) “Lasting Disadvantage? Comparing Career Trajectories of Matched Temporary and Permanent Workers in Canada” CANADIAN REVIEW OF SOCIOLOGY 51(4) *Winner of the Canadian Sociological Association Best Article Award

Fuller, Sylvia (2014). “Do Pathways Matter? Linking Early Immigrant Employment Sequences and Later Economic Outcomes: Evidence from Canada. INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION REVIEW 49(2): 355-405

Pulkingham, Jane and Sylvia Fuller (2012) , “From Parent to Patient: The Medicalization of Lone Motherhood Through Welfare Reform”. SOCIAL POLITICS: INTERNATIONAL STUDIES IN GENDER, STATE & SOCIETY.

Fuller, Sylvia and Martin, Todd (2012) ‘Predicting Immigrant Employment Sequences in the First Years of Settlement’.  INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION REVIEW 46(1): 138-190 

Fuller, Sylvia.(2011) “Up and On or Down and Out? Gender, Immigration and the Consequences of Temporary Employment in Canada”. RESEARCH IN SOCIAL STRATIFICATION AND MOBILITY 29(2): 155-180.

Pulkingham, Jane, Sylvia Fuller and Paul Kershaw (2010) . “Lone-Motherhood, Welfare Reform and Active Citizen Subjectivity” CRITICAL SOCIAL POLICY 30(2): 267-291.

Fuller, Sylvia (2009). “Investigating Longitudinal Dimensions of Precarious Employment: Conceptual and Practical Issues” in Leah Vosko, Martha MacDonald and Iain Campbell Eds. Gender and the Contours of Precarious Employment: Developing Common Understandings Across Space, Scale, and Social Location. Routledge.

Fuller, Sylvia and Leah Vosko (2008). “Temporary Employment and Social Inequality in Canada: Exploring Intersections of Gender, Race, and Migration“. SOCIAL INDICATORS RESEARCH. 88(1): 31-50.

Kershaw, Paul, Jane Pulkingham and Sylvia Fuller (2008).“Expanding the Subject: Violence, Care and Active Citizenship”. SOCIAL POLITICS. 15(1): 1-25.

Fuller, Sylvia, Pulkingham, Jane, and Paul Kershaw (2008). “Constructing’ Active Citizenship’:Single Mothers, Welfare, and the Logics of Voluntarism”. CITIZENSHIP STUDIES. 12(2): 157-176.

Fuller, Sylvia (2008).”Job Mobility and Wage Trajectories for Men and Women in the United States“. AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW. 73(1): 158-182.



Winter 2017

SOCI352A Organization of Work - ORGANIZ OF WORK Sections

The meaning of work and leisure. Properties of work organization: division of labour and specialization; technology and working knowledge; means of coordinating work, such as cooperation, authority, and exchange. Research problems concerning work in households, offices, and industry, division of labour by gender, industrial democracy and the relation of work and social inequality.

Winter 2017

SOCI361A Social Inequality - SOCIAL INEQUALTY Sections

Tendencies toward equality and inequality; manifestations of inequality (occupation, education, gender, ethnicity, income, power) and their consequences; caste and class features of major stratification systems; theories of social class; stratification profile of contemporary industrial societies.


Ph.D., Rutgers University
M.A. Dalhousie university
B.A. Simon Fraser University

Izaak Walton Killam and SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (York University and University of British Columbia)