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Ethnic economies and social policy

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change

ISBN: 978-0-76230-665-7, eISBN: 978-1-84950-054-8

ISSN: 0163-786X

Publication date: 1 January 2000


The basis of ethnic groups' economic status remains among the enduring controversies in both popular and social scientific discussions of inequality. While this debate commonly opposes cultural attributes to structures of opportunity and disadvantage, we point out that various policies—including banking, public employment, business development programs, and refugee resettlement—have also had important impacts on ethnic economies. Because our definition of the ethnic economy includes both the ethnic-owned economy of the self-employed as well as the ethnic-controlled economy, wherein ethnic networks help locate jobs in non-co-ethnic firms or the public sector, we are able to incorporate a wide range of groups and contexts in our analysis. Our results suggest that the economic status of certain ethnic groups in American society reflects the outcome of specific policies that helped or hindered the growth of their ethnic economies. We conclude that policies, such as public employment, which incorporate various ethnic groups, are a more viable means of nurturing ethnic economic growth than selective programs that benefit some groups while excluding others.


Gold, S.J. and Light, I. (2000), "Ethnic economies and social policy", Coy, P.G. (Ed.) Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 165-191.



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