Racial disparity in the U.S. labor market is not a new phenomenon. Differentials by race, ethnicity, and gender are as old as the market itself. Although in contemporary society, this gap is slowly narrowing, there is still a marked difference in job opportunities available to the immigrants [mostly Blacks and African-Americans] and those available to the native [white population]. These disparities are evident in jobs occupied by natives and immigrants, socioeconomic status, residential arrangement, education, and lifestyle. Sociologists have done much work in the analyses of the racial disparity in the U.S. labor market, and this essay examines the concepts of market-oriented perspective and embedded perspective, in explaining the racial disparity in the U.S. labor market. The key aspect of this paper is to look at the how market-oriented approach and embeddedness approach differ and resemble and differ.
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The market-oriented perspective explains the process of hiring based on market demand and supply. This means that employers recruit employees that possess certain skills necessary for working in the industry. The selection criteria aim at getting the best candidate among the available option. By best, according to Waldinger is not necessarily the individual’s merit but other factors such as ethnicity, race, gender, and individual suitability (Waldinger 8), influence the selection process. Other factors not relating to the employee include the employer’s demand, that is, how much the employer is willing to pay, and qualities such as willingness to work that he expects from his employee. The market-oriented perspective argues that employment is in terms of merit; this includes the level of education, skills, and the willingness of employees to accept available jobs. Other factors that affect employment include the social structure, where a process referred to as the hiring queue takes effect. In the hiring queue, the selection of employees is in order of their ethnic groups; majority groups come first, followed by other groups in rank, and minorities groups come at the bottom.
According to this theory, the employment gap between natives and immigrants can best be explained in two ways; personal disadvantageous traits that come with the immigrants and employee selection of available. The immigrants are new to the American culture, and they are unable to make do in English and limited academic qualifications. These are employment qualities that the white possess by being natives, hence placing them above immigrants. The second perspective is that immigrants take up low-skilled jobs rejected by low-skilled natives. This explains the presence of low educated immigrants holding jobs that they should not be holding and earning higher rates than expected.
The embeddedness approach views informal networks like the power driving racial employment disparities between whites and blacks. This theory holds that an “invisible hand” sorts and selects workers within a free market. This invisible hand is informal networks, which play a key role in identifying who gets to know about a job opening and who gets hired for the job. The theory argues that even though both blacks and white could have attended the same schools and attained the same grades, the people and or institutions each group knows makes a difference in the employment sector. According to the theory, a lack of reliable informal networks excludes working-class blacks from readily available opportunities accessible to whites. Royster explains that differences in abilities wanted skills, and the different ways of determining what traits the prospective employee has, justifies racial inequality in the U.S labor market, (Royster 12). This explains why the whites are at the top of the market scale while the blacks hang around the bottom, (Royster 17). The theory puts a lot of emphasis on personal and institutional contacts, (Royster 18); this is the link between individual and information and an employment opportunity. Because of the lack of these contacts, many working-class individuals (especially blacks) do not get to know about a vacancy or be considered for an employment opportunity.
What does the Market-oriented perspective have in common with the Embeddedness approach?
The market-oriented perspective and embeddedness approach agree on the fact that racial segregation is a key contributor to racial disparity in the U.S labor market. There are disadvantages associated with being an immigrant, these include low academic status, poor adaptability to the English language, and lifestyle. As a result, natives are more likely to get better jobs than immigrants. The embeddedness perspective argues that racial discrimination is a result of differences in information networks accessible to both blacks and whites; whites have more and better information networks and are rich in information about employment as well as employment opportunities.
Both market-oriented approach and embeddedness perspective have a common standing in the fact that racial discrimination irrationally restricts both supply and demand in the labor market. For instance, qualified black workers could not get appropriate jobs, and employers could not evaluate enumeration for black employees based on merit because of racial background (Royster 19-21). Thus, racial disparity determines who gets employed where, as well as, who gets paid what.
Where does Market-Oriented Perspective differ in explaining the racial disparity in U.S Labor?
The major disparity between the market-oriented perspective and the embeddedness concept is in the role of race in determining labor market processes. The embeddedness perspective maintains that race is a key and inevitable contributor to explaining racial disparities rooted in the history of blacks and whites. According to the Market-oriented perspective, demand and supply of labor largely determine market processes and not necessarily race. However, the market-oriented perspective maintains that racial disparities will always pop up as a consequence of structural difficulties faced by poor blacks rather than racial privileges enjoyed by more affluent whites. These structural difficulties include exposure to education, and the area of residence occupied by blacks, (Waldinger 10-15). Proponents of the market-oriented approach believe that foreigners provide the services required by employees-both labor and low wages. This means that foreigners willingly accept low jobs rejected by less-skilled whites, and as a result, there is competition in the labor market for less-skilled jobs between blacks and whites.
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What is the future like for impacted groups in the U.S. labor market?
There is a marked shift in determinants of market processes today. Market processes of recruiting employees largely depend on the laws of supply and demand; these laws define the need for an employment opportunity based upon scarcity of either manpower or expertise. Employment priority lies with individual credibility. With foreign governments investing more into education and employment sectors shifting their criteria from a racial perspective to a merit-based perspective, racial disparity, just like the market-oriented perspective argues, will in the future be defeated by rational ideals.
Royster, Deirdre. Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue Collar Jobs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Print.
Waldinger, Roger and Michael I. Lichter. How The Other Half Works: Immigration and the Social Organization of Labor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Print.