Race, Identity and Work: Volume 32

Cover of Race, Identity and Work
Subject:

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-viii
click here to view access options

Introduction

Pages 1-6
click here to view access options

Part I Identity and Identity Work

Abstract

Job loss and long-term unemployment can have pervasive negative impacts on well-being. At its most extreme, unemployment is accompanied by feelings of shame, humiliation, insecurity, and worthlessness, as well as damage to cherished identities and narratives of self. Scholars have investigated how the unemployed attempt to repair these damaged identities, but little is known about how network members participate in the identity reconstruction process. Social support has been shown to ameliorate the negative psychological effects of unemployment, but studies have also found that the unemployed are reluctant to ask for assistance and often perceive network members as a source of stress rather than as a source of support. To understand why social support can be experienced both positively and negatively by the unemployed, we draw upon 84 in-depth qualitative interviews with men and women who experienced unemployment during the extended economic downturn associated with the Great Recession. We find that social support ameliorates unemployment when it bolsters identities important to recipients, and exacerbates unemployment when it undermines such identities. We also show how the unemployed respond to identity-threatening support: by avoiding it, rejecting it, or reframing it as reciprocity. Our analysis contributes new insights into the relationship between social support and identities, as well as a deeper understanding of the noneconomic costs of the slow economic recovery following the Great Recession.

Abstract

Deriving pleasure and meaning from one’s job is especially potent in the cultural industries, where workers routinely sacrifice monetary rewards, stability, and tidier careers for the nonmonetary benefits of self-expression, autonomy, and contribution to the greater good. Cultural labor markets are consequently characterized by the continual churning of its workforce; the lure of “cool” employment attracts an oversupply of aspirants while precariousness and routinized work lead to short careers. This article draws on qualitative data to further conceptualize the appeal and limits of nonmonetary rewards over time. Why do workers stay in precarious “cool” jobs? More specifically, how do workers stay committed to their jobs and perform the requisite deep acting for their roles? Through qualitative research on two sets of workers – music industry personnel and craft cocktail bartenders – this article examines patterns in these workers’ “experiential careers.” We identify three strategies cultural workers use to re-enchant their work lives: (1) deep engagement, (2) boundary work, and (3) changing jobs. In doing so, we show how the experiential careers of cultural workers resemble more of a cycle of enchantment than a linear path to exiting the field.

Part II Racial Exclusion at Work

Abstract

Building on relational inequality theory, this paper incorporates social capital as a device to trace the flow of resources through relationships originating within and beyond organizations. I draw on a survey of over 1,700 lawyers to evaluate key dynamics of social capital that shape earnings: bridging and bonding, reciprocity exchanges and sponsorship, and boundary maintenance. The findings show social capital lends a lift to law graduates through bridges to professional careers and sponsorship following job entry. Racial minorities, however, suffer a shortfall of personal networks to facilitate job searches, and once having secured jobs, minorities experience social closure practices by clients and colleagues that disadvantage them in their professional work. A sizeable earnings gap remains between racial minority and white lawyers after controlling for human and social capitals, social closure practices, and organizational context. This earnings gap is particularly large among racial minorities with more years of experience and those working in large law firms. The findings demonstrate the importance of identifying the interrelations that connect social network and organizational context to impact social inequality.

Abstract

Black women have traditionally occupied a unique position in the American economic structure – at the very bottom. The year 1920 is a unique historical moment to examine how this came to be. Economic prosperity immediately following World War I, the first wave of Black migration, and accelerating industrialization created occupational opportunities that could have enabled Black women to escape working poverty, as the majority of Black men did, but they were actively constrained. Historical narratives have extensively described Black women’s occupational restriction across regions to dirty work, such as domestic service, but not often in conjunction with a comparison to the expanding opportunities of Black men and White women. While intersectionality studies have honed in on the unique place of Black women, little attention has been devoted to this from a historical vantage point. This chapter examines the role that race, gender, and place played in shaping the experience of working poverty and integrates a consideration of queuing theory and Black population size to examine how variations might shape racial outcomes in the labor market in 1920.

Abstract

The burgeoning sociological literature on African American/White men’s downward mobility has failed to examine dynamics at the working-class level and has not conducted analyses at the refined job level. Within the context of the minority vulnerability thesis, we address these shortcomings, and specifically utilizing data from the 2011–2015 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine racial difference in the incidence, determinants, and timing of downward mobility from two working-class job types, elite blue collar and rank-and-file jobs. Findings our expectation of ongoing, contemporary vulnerability: from both working-class origins, African Americans relative to Whites experience higher rates of downward mobility, experience it on a broad basis that is not explained by traditional stratification-based causal factors (e.g., human capital and job/labor market characteristics) and experience downward mobility more quickly. Further, these racial inequalities are pronounced at the elite blue-collar level, probably because of heightened practices of social closure when supervisory responsibility is at stake. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for understanding both the ongoing and future socioeconomic well-being of African Americans in the US.

Abstract

Organizational approaches to racial inequality have provided contextual insight into a host of traditional stratification outcomes (e.g., hiring, earnings, authority). This chapter extends the organizational approach by drawing on the health-stress framework to explore how organizational context affects experiential and health-related outcomes – discrimination, social support, and psychological distress. Drawing on a sample of Black workers in the United States, we examine the relationship between workplace racial composition and psychological distress, as well as two potential mediators – racial discrimination and workplace social support. Our findings reveal that psychological distress is similar for Black workers in token (<25% Black coworkers), tilted other race (25–49.99% Black coworkers), and tilted same race (50–74.99% Black coworkers) job contexts. Workers in Black-dominated jobs (>75% Black coworkers), however, experience significantly less psychological distress than other compositional thresholds, net of individual, job, and workplace characteristics. This relationship is not explained by either racial discrimination experiences or supervisor and coworker social support. This finding suggests that researchers need to theorize and examine other protective factors stemming from coworker racial similarity.

Abstract

A varying number of work hours from week to week creates considerable hardships for workers and their families, like volatile earnings and work–family conflict. Yet little empirical work has focused on racial/ethnic differences in varying work hours, which may have increased substantially in the Great Recession of the late 2000s. We extend literatures on racial/ethnic stratification in recessions and occupational segregation to this topic. Analyses of the Survey of Income and Program Participation show varying weekly hours became significantly more common for White and Black, but especially Latino workers in the late 2000s. The growth of varying weekly hours among White and Latino workers was greatest in predominantly minority occupations. However, the growth among Black workers was greatest in predominantly White occupations. The chapter discusses implications for disparities in varying hours and the salience of occupational composition beyond earnings.

Part III Challenging Racial Exclusion

Abstract

Research indicates that work in predominantly white professional settings generates stress for minority professionals. However, certain occupations may enable or constrain these race-related stressors. In this paper, we use affect control theory to examine the identity dynamics present in professions that explicitly require workers to highlight racial issues. We might expect that occupations that require attention to racial inequalities could produce heightened stress for these workers. However, our research on diversity officers indicates that the opportunity to advocate for disadvantaged groups and address racial bias explicitly creates emotions of satisfaction and fulfillment, and removes some of the common pressures to manage negative emotions that arise as a result of cross-race interactions. Importantly, these emotions are achieved when minority diversity workers perceive institutional supports that buttress their work. Thus, our findings offer a more nuanced assessment of the ways professionals of color engage in various types of emotional performance, and emphasize the importance of both occupational role and institutional support.

Abstract

As a site of contestation among job seekers, workers, and managers, the bureaucratic workplace both reproduces and erodes occupational race segregation and racial status hierarchies. Much sociological research has examined the reproduction of racial inequality at work; however, little research has examined how desegregationist forces, including civil rights movement values, enter and permeate bureaucratic workplaces into the broader polity. Our purpose in this chapter is to introduce and typologize what we refer to as “occupational activism,” defined as socially transformative individual and collective action that is conducted and realized through an occupational role or occupational community. We empirically induce and present a typology from our study of the half-century-long, post-mobilization occupational careers of over 60 veterans of the nonviolent Nashville civil rights movement of the early 1960s. The fourfold typology of occupational activism is framed in the “new” sociology of work, which emphasizes the role of worker agency and activism in determining worker life chances, and in the “varieties of activism” perspective, which treats the typology as a coherent regime of activist roles in the dialogical diffusion of civil rights movement values into, within, and out of workplaces. We conclude with a research agenda on how bureaucratic workplaces nurture and stymie occupational activism as a racially desegregationist force at work and in the broader polity.

Abstract

Black professionals in predominantly white workspaces must often make use of the professional pose – styles, behaviors, and practices meant to help navigate middle-class white professional settings – to assuage interactions with white colleagues and clients at work. Previous research has noted the emotional toll this often takes upon black workers. Based on two years of observations and interviews with a college organization of black men, this project builds upon previous work and investigates how collegiate black men frame those practices associated with the professional pose. Instead of framing these behaviors as only being emotionally taxing, these college men expressed that these behaviors were a necessity meant to prepare them for the real world of working alongside white coworkers, as a performance they could take pride in, and as a way to combat negative stereotypes regarding black men. These behaviors, though not necessary for their white peers, were necessary for the men if they sought to find success in the labor market they were preparing to enter.

Index

Pages 267-272
click here to view access options
Cover of Race, Identity and Work
DOI
10.1108/S0277-2833201832
Publication date
2018-11-07
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Work
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78769-501-6
eISBN
978-1-78769-501-6
Book series ISSN
0277-2833