Racial Disparities in Job Seeking
Research has shown that half of all jobs in the U.S. are found through networks of individuals or informal channels, i.e., friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Nevertheless, racial disparities and discrimination in the job market continue. If the people we know can help us get jobs, what makes these disparities persist? According to David Pedulla and the late Devah Pager in the American Sociological Review, the ability (or lack thereof) of individuals to leverage networks in the job-market presents a new way of understanding this question.
Using the National Longitudinal Study of Job Search (NLSJS) data, a nationally representative dataset of over 2,060 job seekers over an 18-month period, the authors study this question from a job-seeker’s perspective. The authors find that both Black and White job seekers hear about openings in the job market through informal channels at an equal rate (network access). The difference arises in how much these networks help the applicants in securing a job (network returns).
Pedulla and Pager test two ways that returns are different for Black and White job applicants. The first is if people in your network are employed at the company you’ve applied to work at (network placement). The second is what the people you know can do for you, such as contacting an employer on behalf of the jobseeker (network mobilization). Together, these two factors explain one-fifth of the disparity between Black and White job applicants in getting a job through informal channels. While these new findings present us with a framework to think about racial inequality in the job market, it is still not clear what other processes are at work to exacerbate racial disparities.