I am an economic sociologist studying how modern capitalism is changing and how it is transforming people’s lives. Specifically, I focus on three features of contemporary capitalism: 1) inequality that reached an unprecedented level in history, 2) capital that moves freely across national borders, and 3) the finance sector that is dominating diverse aspects of economic lives. As a sociologist, my long-term research direction is to explore how the latter two shape the first.
The current stream of my research is on income inequality and corporate stratification in the U.S. It has been much reported that the inequality in the U.S. has reached an unprecedented level where the top 1% owns about 40% of the country's wealth. Existing sociological studies have usually approached inequality based on how certain demographic factors of workers are associated with inequality, such as gender, race, and education. My project complements this line of research by approaching inequality from the other side of the labor market— the corporate world— taking a fresh approach to inequality by looking at how the hierarchical structure of firms has contributed to income inequality.
Over the past seven decades, the American corporate world has become increasingly unequal: the gap between the largest companies and the rest has been strikingly widened. preliminary analysis shows that the gap between the top 10% largest and bottom 90% companies has been steadily increasing to a level where the top 10% companies have four-times larger sales than all the rest combined in 2019.
I examine how this stratification of the corporate world affects individual income inequality by aggregating company data and individual income data to an industrial level. This research is promising especially because scholars recently found that increasing income inequality comes from between-firm pay inequity rather than intra-firm, thus the widening gap between the top and the rest companies is likely to be an important driving force behind the increasing inequality.
My dissertation is about how money moves internationally in the global economy. The international movement of goods and services has been much studied by sociologists, but the movement of capital has not been received enough attention from sociologists despite that the international capital movement exploded during the last three decades.
This lack of research is surprising considering that sociologists have been accumulating a wealth of research on the global diffusion of social policies that affect economic exchange, especially capital exchange. My dissertation argues that the isomorphism of governmental regulations has greatly facilitated the upsurge of global capital movements. Even though a policy’s purpose is to curb, not to promote, economic exchanges, if it spreads across a sufficient number of countries, it inadvertently brings about harmonization of policies and, as a result, facilitates the economic exchanges on a global level—I provide a more detailed description of my dissertation in the research statement.
Another stream of my research is about the increasing role of finance in modern economic life. At a glance, the term finance appears somewhat distant from sociology; however, sociologists recently have reported that the inequality that has reached an unprecedented level in the U.S. has a lot to do with the rise of finance: it has enabled the rise of the super-rich and the exorbitant compensations for corporate executives that widen the gap between the haves and have-not.
Ever since the financial collapse of 2008, the realm of finance has attracted more and more attention from sociologists due to the sheer magnitude of its impact on society as a whole. I am also influenced by this trend and address this topic through a sociological lens. I co-authored a paper on the increasing financial income among non-financial firms in Korea. It analyzes how state initiatives toward market-oriented reforms have spurred the beginning of corporate financialization in Korea. In my next paper, I will identify the institutional causes of financialization in the U.S.
Han, Gru. 2022. “Networks as Big Data for Policy Learning: Evidence of Vicarious Policy Learning from Intergovernmental Networks, 1990-2005”. Korean Journal of Convergence Science 11(3):143-167.
Park, Chanung, and Gru Han. Forthcoming. "The Financialization of Non-Financial Firms: The Case of South Korea 1997–2015". Current Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1177/00113921211012734
Han, Gru. 2020. "Institutional Conditions of Economic Globalization: Effects of Antitrust and Merger Laws on the Global Integration of the Acquisition Market." Sociological Forum 35(4):1250-71.
Han, Gru. 2020. “The Effects of Interfirm Networks on Corporate Risk-Taking: Korean Venture Capitals Investing in Younger Start-ups.” The Korean Journal of Financial Management 37(4):113-131
Han, Gru. 2020. "The Globalization of Rituals: the Korean Case of the Diffusion of a Foreign Ritual among Young Koreans." Global Culture Review 11(3):1-28
Publications under Review
Han, Gru. "The Interplay between Network and Institution: Intergovernmental Network and Antitrust Laws on Cross-border Acquisitions." Under Review
Han, Gru. "Corporate Stratification and Wage Inequality in the U.S. 1960-2018."