Archive

Panel-Occupational Segregation

Documenting Desegregation

Over the last few months, in various parts of the country, several scholars have been invited to critique and discuss fellow OOW members Kevin Stainback and Don Tomaskovic-Devey’s new book, Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private-Sector Employment Since the Civil Rights Act. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2012. 

This panel brings together a few of these scholars’ voices in an attempt to kick start a conversation about occupational sex and race segregation and, in many cases to move forward with more research. 

You will want to read OOW member and Work in Progress blog editorial board member Steve Vallas’ summary below.

The book is the first major study use EEO-1 data to examine the nature and consequences of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) over time. The book is painstaking in its use of data, but also careful and creative in its application of theory (largely, social closure theory). Major findings emerge in the book, some of which confirm existing assumptions about corporate policy, and others that are highly counter-intuitive. The book has generated much debate in the few months since its publication, and seems destined to provide a touchstone in this field now and for the foreseeable future.

Read More

Advertisements

The book’s scope is sweeping:  it details a half century of the political landscape of social change and also attends to the micro–organizational and local–levels.  In other words, the authors successfully position themselves both on the balcony and the dance floor:  The balcony gives them the wide-ranging view, and the dance floor lets them show off the intricate footwork at the local and organizational levels.

Read More

Given the ambitious intent and complex analyses, it is inevitable that there are questions about the narrative or the interpretations of the link between context and analyses. No one book can do everything, and indeed, books that try to cover too much often lose impact in a forest for the trees problem. Although there are clearly broad themes that are evident throughout this work, it is easy to lose the overall thread because the argument spans types of inequality across time periods, context, and levels of analysis.

Read More

I’d like to focus on two issues that are not addressed in-depth in this otherwise wonderful book.  First, the book overlooks the importance of the substantive legal doctrine that emerged between 1966 and the 1980s.  Title VII says that employers may not “discriminate against any individual with respect to . . . employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”  But what exactly does it mean to “discriminate . . . because of”?  Over time, the courts converged on the view that the employer must have been consciously motivated by the relevant characteristic at the time of making the adverse employment decision.  Under this definition, only a very narrow range of behavior gives rise to legal liability.

Read More

In making sense of the desegregation trajectories that have developed since passage of the Civil Rights Act, the book makes highly creative use of social closure theory, applied alongside the shifting American political landscape. The book finds that racial and gender segregation has remained especially pronounced in higher paying industries and occupations (much as closure theory would predict). But the book also finds that organizations that rely on formal professional credentials exhibit a much more level playing field than do firms that rely on less formal markers of skill and expertise. This finding calls for important modifications in social closure theory, since it suggests that educational credentials can enable (and not merely block) access to job rewards among historically excluded groups. This is a vital and important finding. But in presenting these results, the book does not always show us why this pattern is the case. Did the class or racial advantages that white women enjoy give them easier access to credentialing institutions? Was the effect of meritocracy also apparent in industries that rely heavily personnel in STEM fields? Or are the leveling effects of educational credentials limited to professional contexts such as law, accounting, social work and teaching? Arguably, heavily feminized professions account for much of this meritocracy effect. My point is that the nature and sources of the meritocracy trend need more discussion than the authors provide.

Read More