Labor Specialization, Ethnicity, and Metropolitan Labor Markets

Wilson, Franklin
Working paper no. 2002-10


This paper provides an empirical assessment of the extent to which co-ethnic workers are under- or over-represented in industry and occupation-based employment sectors based on the characteristics of workers themselves, attributes and resources of ethnic groups in which workers are affiliated, and characteristics of metropolitan areas. Specifically, this paper evaluates two claims to be found in the extant literature in economic sociology. First, that ethnic affiliation, as reflected in group-based attributes and resources, affects the relative concentration of co-ethnic workers in employment sectors. Second, that metropolitan labor markets provide the context within which members of ethnic populations are sorted into employment sectors on the basis of worker characteristics, group-based resources, and supply and demand conditions prevailing in local labor markets, including the presence of similarly endowed members of other groups. Results partly confirm these claims and indicate that indicators of ethnic affiliation and local labor market conditions substantially affect the under- or over-representation of co-ethnic workers in employment sectors.