Segmented labor markets are an integral component of the United States economy, as these markets provide demographic information regarding the employment prospective of individuals. Examples of segmented labor markets include male workers, female workers, white workers, black workers, and other types of segments. Antoher example of segmented labor markets includes high wage and low wage markets. As David K. Shipler writes in The Working Poor: Invisible in America, “as the unemployment rate falls, quality does also … the better the times, the more difficult the employers’ search for high-caliber workers, especially at low wages” (134). Thus, this quote explains why times are still very difficult for specific segments of the labor market during favorable and unfavorable economic times. In “How Social Networks Drive Black Unemployment,” Nancy Ditomaso details the economic struggles still experienced by a certain segment of the labor market: black workers. Ditomaso points out that high levels of black unemployment are directly correlated with the social networks that can determine employment success: specifically, white workers are more likely to help out other aspiring white workers, which exacerbates unemployment inequality.
In addition, these jobs often require a strong social network, as it is significantly more difficult to obtain a highly coveted job than a minimum wage job. Thus, social networks help ensure that whites work in highly coveted jobs, whereas blacks work in minimum wage jobs. However, this practice is not illegal; while outright discrimination is illegal, favoritism and inclusion are not. In How the Other Half Works: Immigration and the Social Organization of Labor, Roger Waldinger and Michael I. Lichter offer another alternative outside of depending on social networks: finding a specific niche in the labor market filled by no other dominant labor segment, and then filling it. Several uneducated immigrant laborers in the United States have managed to carve out a niche for themselves and maintain high levels of employment, even during times of economic downturn. Therefore, while Waldinger and Lichter share some of the same sentiments as Ditomaso, in terms of the current state of unemployment inequality, they also offer an intriguing solution for bridging the gap in unemployment levels.
- Ditomaso, Nancy. “How Social Networks Drive Black Unemployment.” The New York Times. 5
May 2013. Web. 24 February 2017. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/how-social-networks-drive-black-unemployment/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=2
- Shipler, David K. The Working Poor: Invisible in America. Vintage Books, 2005.
- Waldinger, Roger and Michael I. Lichter. How the Other Half Works: Immigration and the
Social Organization of Labor. University of California Press, 2003.