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Tag Archives: labor markets

Image: Paul Townsend via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image: Paul Townsend via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

by Devah Pager & David S. Pedulla

Discrimination in hiring continues to limit the opportunities available to racial minorities, with important consequences for their economic security and career trajectories. But, how do racial minorities respond to this reality when they are searching for employment? Some argue that job seekers tailor their searches in ways that allow them to avoid discrimination. Others suggest that job seekers adapt by casting a wider net in their search.

Until now, we have known little about this process, largely because no existing data source has closely followed individuals through their job search. In recent research, we attempt to address this limitation by drawing on two original datasets that track job seekers and the positions to which they apply. The results of our study point to three general conclusions about patterns of self-selection and job search:

1) Broader Job Search among African Americans than Whites: African Americans cast a wider net in their job search than similarly situated whites. Specifically, they include a greater range of occupation types and occupational characteristics among the jobs to which they apply. For example, consider one of our respondents whose last job was as a “material moving worker.” Over the course of the survey, this respondent applied for jobs consistent with his prior work experience, such as “material handler” and “warehouse worker.” However, the respondent also reported applying for jobs in retail sales, as an IT technician, a delivery driver, a security guard, a mailroom clerk, and a short order cook. This respondent applied to jobs in a total of seven distinct occupations over the course of the survey, reflecting a fairly broad approach to job search. While this is just one example, in both of the datasets we examined African Americans systematically applied to a larger number of distinct job types than whites with similar levels of education and work experience.

2) Narrower Job Search among Women than Men: Our study demonstrates that the search strategy of African Americans appears very different from that of women. Women self-select into distinctive (and highly gendered) occupational categories, considering a narrower range of occupational types and characteristics over the course of their job search relative to similarly situated men.

3) Labor Market Discrimination Appears to Drive Search Behavior: We find that perceptions of or experiences with racial discrimination play an important role in explaining the greater search breadth exhibited by African American job seekers. Individuals who have witnessed or experienced racial discrimination in the workplace are more likely to cast a wide net in their job search relative to those without such experience.

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Today we are posting a four-part panel with four sociologists discussing a number of issues around the norms of what it means to be an ideal worker and how these relate to various work leave policies.

Julie Kmec kicks it off with a discussion of how Landon Donovan, one of the best living US soccer players, was cut from the US Men’s World Cup Team. She suggests that Donovan was cut as a penalty for taking a four-month sabbatical for family and R&R time, thus violating norms of being a dedicated worker, which are particularly strong in the US.

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work wheelAmong the many things that the American mythology holds to be special about the United States is a particularly strong work ethic. This, of course, is part of a larger narrative of rugged individualism. However dubious the idea of a uniquely American work ethic, it is certainly telling to examine how much Americans work compared with fellow workers in peer countries.

In terms of average annual hours worked per person, the US currently ranks 12th out of 34 OECD countries – that is, Americans work more per year than workers in 22 other OECD countries. The average Dutch worker clocks in 405 fewer hours per year than the average American worker! Yet, the Netherlands ranks ninth out of the 34 countries in GDP per capita, 15% above the OECD average and just five places behind the US. As economist Juliet Schor argued in a best-selling book over 20 years ago, Americans are overworked. Let us examine the most recent, comparative data in a bit more detail.

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The Luddite sees industrial robots everywhere and, fearing negative effects on employment, begins to rage against the machines.

Seeing the same robots, the (liberal) economist exclaims, “What marvelous labor-saving technology. This will maximize productivity, and jobs that are lost in this factory will be replaced with high-tech jobs elsewhere in the economy!”

The Marxist sighs, and responds, “Is this some sort of joke? In the US today, seventeen percent of the American workforce – 27 million individual workers – is unemployed or underemployed.”

 

I imagined this scenario as I read the most recent entry in the New York Times’ consistently excellent series on the iEconomy, which focused on a new generation of robots being deployed in manufacturing.

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