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Journal Article

Unequal Reach: Cyclical and Amplifying Ties Among Agricultural and Oilfield Workers in Texas


Griesbach,  Kathleen
Wirtschaftssoziologie, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Griesbach, K. (2022). Unequal Reach: Cyclical and Amplifying Ties Among Agricultural and Oilfield Workers in Texas. Work and Occupations, 49(1), 3-44. doi:10.1177/07308884211034208.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-FBB6-0
What kinds of ties do agricultural and oil and gas workers form in the field, and how do they use them later on? Why do they use them differently? Scholarship highlights how weak ties can link people to valuable information, while strong ties can be critical for day-to-day survival. Yet many mechanisms affect how workers form and use social networks over time and space. Drawing on 60 interviews and observations with agricultural and oilfield workers in Texas, I examine how both groups form strong ties of fictive kinship when living together in the field far from home—pooling resources, sharing reproductive labor, and using the discourse of family to describe these relationships. Then I examine how they use these ties very differently later in practice. Oilfield workers often use their fictive kin ties to move up and around the industry across space, time, and companies: amplifying ties. In contrast, agricultural workers renew the same strong ties for survival from season to season, maintaining cyclical ties. The comparison highlights how industry mobility ladders, tempos, and geographies affect how workers can use their networks in practice. While both agricultural and oilfield workers become fictive kin in situations of intense proximity, structural differences give their networks unequal reach.