How Race and Unemployment Shape Labor Market Opportunities: Additive, Amplified, or Muted Effects?
The manner in which social categories combine to produce inequality lies at the heart of scholarship on social stratification. Yet, knowledge about the causal effects of multi-category membership remains limited. Addressing key challenges in this area, this article advances a “muted congruence” theoretical perspective, arguing that when individuals evaluate others that occupy multiple social positions about which stereotypes are highly congruent – for example, being black and being unemployed – the additional category membership will have limited influence over the ultimate evaluation. I test this argument using evidence from a field experiment, where fictitious applications were submitted to real job openings, to examine how these categories shape actual hiring decisions. I then present supplementary evidence from a survey experiment addressing how overlapping stereotypes about these social groups drive applicant evaluations. Finally, I explore whether the experimental findings are consistent with evidence from a national survey of job seekers. The findings indicate that racial discrimination is prominent, but that there are limited additional negative effects of unemployment for African American workers. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for understanding the aggregation of social categories in the production of inequality.
David Pedulla is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. His research interests include race and gender stratification, labor markets, economic and organizational sociology, and experimental methods. Specifically, his research agenda examines the consequences of non-standard, contingent, and precarious employment for workers’ social and economic outcomes as well as the processes leading to race and gender labor market stratification. David’s research has appeared in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, and other academic journals. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the UC-Davis Center for Poverty Research, among other organizations. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy from Princeton University.