Leif Jensen

Distinguished Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University

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About Leif

Jensen’s research interests are found within three broad areas. The first is social stratification with emphasis on poverty, employment and underemployment, and informal work and other household economic survival strategies. Much of this work focuses on rural populations and rural-urban differences. His second area of interest is demography with special attention to migration and immigration. Finally, he is also interested in the sociology of economic development with a focus on Latin America.


The Great Recession and America's Underemployment Crisis

  • Timothy Slack


"Social Capital and Human Mortality: Explaining the Rural Paradox with County-Level Mortality Data" (with Tse-Chuan Yang and Murali Haran). Rural Sociology 76, no. 3 (2011): 347-374.
Explores the “rural paradox” – standardized mortality rates in rural areas that are unexpectedly low in view of well-known economic and infrastructural disadvantages there – by incorporating social capital, a promising explanatory factor that has seldom been incorporated into residential mortality research.
"Employment Hardship among Rural Men" (with Eric B. Jensen), in Economic Restructuring in Rural America, edited by Kristin Smith and Ann R. Tickamyer (Penn State Press, 2011).
Discusses the particular case of unemployment and underemployment for rural men.
"Employment Hardship among Older Workers: Does Residential and Gender Inequality Extend into Older Age?" (with Tim Slack). Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences 63, no. 1 (2008): S15-S24.
Shows clear disadvantages for older workers relative to their middle-aged counterparts in terms of the likelihood of underemployment, and particular disadvantages for older rural residents and women.
"Birth and Fortune Revisited: A Cohort Analysis of Underemployment, 1974-2004" (with Tim Slack). Population Research and Policy Review 27, no. 4 (2008): 729-749.
Draws on data from the March Current Population Survey for the period spanning 1974–2004 to examine the influence of relative cohort size on underemployment. The results provide modest support for the Easterlin thesis (that individuals hailing from unusually large cohorts will experience adverse labor market conditions relative to the members of the smaller cohorts that bracket them), showing the odds of underemployment to be greatest among members of relatively large cohorts, net of other significant predictors.
"Underemployment across Immigrant Generations" (with Tim Slack). Social Science Research 36, no. 4 (2007): 1415-1430.
Shows the prevalence of underemployment is decidedly higher among first-generation immigrants compared to those who are second generation or higher. These gross comparisons, however, mask important variation within immigrant generations, including a particular disadvantage for foreign-born non-citizens.