Expert Commentary

Networks of opportunity: Gender, race and job leads

2009 study in Social Problems journal on how access to employment information differs by ethnicity and sex.

There are many theories that attempt to explain persistent inequalities in the labor market. Many focus on barriers such as race and gender, but language, ethnicity and other factors can also play a role.

A 2009 study published in the academic journal Social Problems, “Networks of Opportunity: Gender, Race and Job Leads,” examines how access to information about job openings might help explain the inequalities in the labor market. The authors note that employment information comes not only through ads but also social networks, family connections and targeted recruitment.

The study’s findings include:

  • 35% of study participants reported having heard of at least one job lead through their regular communications with friends, family and colleagues.
  • White women received 33% fewer job leads than white men; Hispanic men received 47% fewer; and Hispanic women 57% fewer.
  • People for whom English is their second language received 60% fewer job leads than primary English speakers.
  • People with exclusively white males in their social networks received 75% more job leads than people with no white males in their social networks.
  • Workers who are employed at a full-time job receive about 63% more job leads than individuals who are not.

The study’s authors conclude that “social network characteristics help to explain the gap in job information between Hispanics and white males.” However, they say, further research is needed to explain the differences between white males and white females.

Tags: Hispanic, Latino, race, African-American, women and work

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