Irene Browne
Soc. 719R/WS 585H
"Gender, Race and Economic Inequality in the U.S."
Fall 1996


Description and Goals:

This course is designed as an overview of major theories, trends and debates on the topic of gender, race and economic inequality in the contemporary United States. The main focus of the course will be on labor market inequality, with a particular emphasis on patterns of inequality that are the center of current debates among policy-makers. We concentrate on labor market inequality for several reasons: First, it is my own area of research. I will be discussing studies and using data that I employ in my own work. This will provide an opportunity for students to carve projects out of the course readings. (However, no one is obligated to use my data, or even to do a quantitative analysis in their final paper). Second, wage labor is the primary source of income for the majority of non-elderly adults in the U.S. Therefore, labor market dynamics are a substantial piece of the puzzle regarding economic inequality. Third, this course is a complement to other courses on social stratification offered in the sociology department. The companion stratification courses cover important and relevant issues to the study of gender and race inequality, including social class and social conflict, inequality in the cross-national context, political and social movements, and intergroup relations.

The course is divided into 4 parts. The first section is a broad overview of the theoretical and empirical issues underlying economic inequality by race and gender. The course begins with a reflection on the historical and sociological aspects of the categories of "race" and "gender" that will be used in our readings, and underscores the importance of looking at race and gender together in studying economic inequality.

We then examine some of the major dimensions of labor market inequality in the U.S., so that we can describe the extent of inequality in the labor market at the aggregate level, and identify which aspects of inequality researchers are trying to explain. After a review of the empirical literature on current trends in labor market inequality, we will cover the major theoretical perspectives that attempt to explain those trends. While all students will read a selection representing each theoretical approach, students will also be assigned to concentrate on one particular theoretical perspective, which they will present to the class.

Section II of the course applies these broad theoretical perspectives to some of the major debates about particular aspects of labor market inequality in the U.S. Over the past ten years, William J. Wilson's book, The Truly Disadvantaged has dominated the research and policy agenda for the study of race and economic inequality in the U.S. Section II will therefore explore the issues that Wilson raises, through both a critical examination of his book, as well as through more in-depth coverage of his major themes. The second section also moves beyond Wilson to look at important aspects of labor market inequality that he fails to address (in particular, the sex segregation of the labor market.)

In Section III, we turn from an examination of the structure of the economy as a whole to dynamics within the workplace that produce inequality by race and gender. We will explore how race and gender inequality is produced and reproduced through social interaction, as well as how racism and sexism are experienced by individuals as they go through their daily lives.

Section IV addresses questions of poverty and social welfare more broadly defined. We will touch on the role of the state in perpetuating and (perhaps) ameliorating social inequality by race and gender.

While being grounded in sociological perspectives on inequality, the course is interdisciplinary, drawing on work from such diverse fields as economics, political science, Women's Studies, Latino/a Studies and African American studies.

The goals of the course are:

1. To provide a conceptual framework for understanding the "interlocking" character of economic inequality by gender and race.

2. To introduce students to the empirical literature on labor market inequality in the United States. Students should be able to describe current trends, including the overall growth in income and wage inequality that occurred in the 1980s in the U.S., and the current gap in income and wages between particular race, ethnic and gender groups.

3. To develop a comprehensive knowledge of the major theoretical explanations of economic inequality by gender and race/ethnicity in the United States. Students should be able to articulate how the respective theories contribute to our understanding of economic inequality by gender and race/ethnicity, how the core assumptions differ between the theories, and the level of analysis that the respective theories represent. Students are also expected to offer critiques of each of the theoretical perspectives we cover.

4. To provide a summary of the major debates regarding specific aspects of race and gender inequality, especially in relation to Wilson's arguments in the Truly Disadvantaged. To review the types of evidence that exist in support of these debates.

5. To understand the relationship between gender, race and poverty, and have an introduction to the ways that the state and welfare policy influence economic inequality and poverty.

Irene Browne
WS 585H
"Gender, Race and Economic Inequality in the U.S."
Fall 1996


1. Presentation and short paper #1: Theories of labor market inequality

You will be responsible for presenting a particular theory of labor market inequality by gender/race to the class. In your presentation, you should explain the major assumptions underlying the theory, and present empirical examples to support the theory.

You will also be required to submit a short paper (around 5 pages) describing the theory, and include a critique of the theory as well as the description and empirical examples.

2. Presentation and short paper #2:

You will be responsible for leading discussion during one of the seminar sessions. You will be required to provide a list of discussion questions on the readings one week prior to your seminar (I'll also give a list of questions). During the seminar, you will give a 10 to 15 minute summary of the main themes or issues that emerge from the readings. You should then facilitate class discussion on those themes and your questions.

You should provide a written summary of the main themes in the readings, and present your own synthesis and critique of the issues covered (10 pages). The paper is due the day of your seminar presentation.

3. Term paper.

You will be required to write a term paper (20-25 pages) on a topic related to gender, race and economic inequality. You must draw on one of the issues or theories covered in class, but you can expand the topic (for instance, you could look at gender, race and economic inequality in a country other than the U.S.) The paper can be either an empirical study or a research proposal. Students who wish to do a different type of paper (for instance, a review of the literature) should consult with me.


The grading for the course will be as follows:

Presentation and short paper #1: 25%

Presentation and short paper #2: 30%

Final paper: 35%

Participation: 10%

Final term papers are due on Dec. 10th. Late papers submitted before the end of the semester (12/18) will receive a deduction of one-half grade. Papers that are submitted after the end of the semester will receive a deduction of one whole grade. (Incompletes are strongly discouraged).

Irene Browne

WS 585H

"Gender, Race and Economic Inequality in the U.S."

Fall 1996


Sept. 9



Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 1986. Chapter 4: Racial Formation. Racial Formation in the United States. Routledge.

King, Deborah. 1989. "'Multiple Jeopardy, Multiple Consciousness: The Context of a Black Feminist Ideology." Signs 14(1): 42-72.

Kibria, Nazli. 1994. "Migration and Vietnamese American Women: Remaking Ethnicity." Pp. 247-261 in Women of Color in U.S. Society, edited by Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill.

McIntosh, Peggy. 1994. "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies." Pp. 76-81 in Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology, edited by Margaret Anderson and Patricia Hill Collins. Wadsworth.

West, Candace and Don Zimmerman. 1991. "Doing Gender." In The Social Construction of Gender, edited by Lorber and Farrell. Sage.


Sept. 16


Bound, John and Richard Freeman. 1992. "What Went Wrong?" The Erosion of Relative Earnings and Employment among Young Black Men in the 1980s." Quarterly Journal of Economics CVII: 201-232.

Bound, John and Laura Dresser. Forthcoming. "The Erosion of Relative Earnings of Young African American Women during the 1980s." in Race, Gender and Economic Inequality: African American and Latina Women in the Labor Market, edited by Irene Browne. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Corcoran, Mary, Colleen Heflin and Belinda Reyes. Forthcoming. "Latina Women in the U.S.: The Economic Progress of Mexican and Puerto Rican Women." in Race, Gender and Economic Inequality: African American and Latina Women in the Labor Market, edited by Irene Browne. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Levy, Frank and Murnane. 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations." Journal of Economic Literature XXX:1333-1381.

(ALTERNATIVE TO LEVY AND MURNANE for those who are unfamiliar with regression analysis: Levy, Frank. 1995. "Incomes and Income Inequality." Pp. 1-58 in State of the Union: America in the 1990s, edited by Reynolds Farley. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation).

Oliver, Melvin and Richard Shapiro. 1995. "A Story of Two Nations: Race and Wealth." Pp. 91-125 in Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality. Routledge.

Grove, John and Jiping Wu. 1991. "Who Benefitted from the Gains of Asian-Americans, 1940-1980?" in Racism and the Underclass: State Policy and Discrimination Against Minorities, edited by George W. Shepherd, Jr., and David Penna. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.


Tinker, George and Loring Bush. 1991. "Native American Unemployment: Statistical Games and Coverups," in Racism and the Underclass: State Policy and Discrimination Against Minorities, edited by George W. Shepherd, Jr., and David Penna. Greenwood Press.

Sept. 23 - Sept. 30


(Groups describe theories)

Neo-classical economic theory (supply & demand)

Institutionalist and Neo-institutionalist theories (Doeringer and Piore; Powell and DiMaggio; Kaufman)

Marxist and neo-marxist theories (Wright; Bonacich; Reich)

Weberian status-maintenance theories (Lieberson; Bielby; Tomaskovic-Devey; Connell)

Feminist and womanist theories (Mink; hooks; Collins)

Afro-centric theories (Asante; Boston)

England, Paula. 1992. Chapter 2: Theories of Labor Markets. In Comparable Worth: Theories and Evidence . Aldine de Gruyter.

Tomaskovic-Devey, Donald. 1993. Chap. 1: Segregation, Inequality and Discrimination in Gender and Racial Inequality at Work. ILR Press.

Bonacich, Edna. 1972. "A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The Split Labor Market." American Sociological Review 37(5):547-559.

Dobbin, Frank, John Sutton, John Meyer and Richard Scott. 1993. "Equal Opportunity Law and the Construction of Internal Labor Markets." American Journal of Sociology 99(2):396-427.

Lieberson, Stanley. 1980. Chaps. 11 and 12 in A Piece of the Pie. Univ. Of California Press.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 1990. Chaps. 2 and 3 in Black Feminist Thought. Harper and Collins.

Mink, Gwendolyn. 1992. "The Lady and the Tramp." In Women, State and Welfare, edited by Linda Gordon.

Asante, Molefi Kete. 1994. "The Afrocentric Idea." Pp. 283-287 in From Different Shores, 2nd Edition, edited by Ronald Takaki. Oxford Univ. Press.

RECOMMENDED: Tilly, Chris. 1996. Chapter 3: Two Theoretical Perspectives. In Half A Job: Bad and Good Part-time Jobs in a Changing Labor Market. Temple.

Kaufman, Robert. 1986. "The Impact of Organizational and Occupational Structure on Black-White Employment Allocation." American Sociological Review 51:310-323.

Hossfeld, Karen. 1990. "Their Logic Against Them: Contradictions of Sex, Race and Class in Silicon Valley." Pp. 149-178 in Women Workers and Global Restructuring, edited by Kathryn Ward.

Hewitt, Cynthia. 1996. Race, Ethnicity and Opportunity in Atlanta. Dissertation Prospectus. Emory University.

Santoro, Wayne A. 1995. "Black Politics and Employment Policies: The Determinants of Local Government Affirmative Action." Social Science Quarterly 76(4):794-806.

Oct. 7


Wilson. 1987. The Truly Disadvantaged. University of Chicago Press.

Gans. 1990. "Deconstructing the Underclass." Journal of the American Planning Association 271(summer):271-277.

Oct. 14


Holzer and Vroman. 1992. "Mismatches in the Urban Labor Market." In Urban Labor Markets and Job Opportunities, edited by Peterson and Vroman. Urban Institute Press.

Moss and Tilly. 1996. "Growing Demand for 'Soft' Skills in Four Industries: Evidence from In-Depth Employer Interviews." Working Paper #93. The Russell Sage Foundation.

Wajcman, Judy. 1991. "Patriarchy, Technology, and Conceptions of Skill." Work and Occupations 18(1):29-45.

Cancio, Evans and Maume. 1996. "Reconsidering the Declining Significance of Race: Racial Differences in Early Career Wages." American Sociological Review 61(4):541-556.

Farkas, George and Kevin Vicknair. 1996. "Appropriate Tests of Racial Wage Discrimination Require Controls for Cognitive Skill: Comment on Cancio, Evans and Maume." American Sociological Review 61(4):557-560. (Also: Reply by Cancio et al).


Oct. 21

Massey, Douglas. 1990. "American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass." American Journal of Sociology 96:329-358.

Thompson, Phillip. 1996. "Considerations of Race, Universalism and Deconcentration." Working Paper #90. The Russell Sage Foundation.

Kirschenman and Neckerman. 1991. "'We'd Love to Hire Them But...The Meaning of Race for Employers." In The Urban Underclass, edited by Jencks and Peterson. Brookings.

Moss, Phillip and Chris Tilly. 1995. "Raised Hurdles for Black Men: Evidence from Interviews with Employers." Working Paper #81. The Russell Sage Foundation.

Bobo, Lawrence and Camille Zubrinsky. 1995. "Prismatic Metropolis: Race and Residential Segregation in the City of Angels." Working Paper #78. The Russell Sage Foundation.

Oct. 28


Anderson, Elijah. "Sex Codes and Family Life Among Northton's Youth" and "Conclusion" in Streetwise: Race, Class and Change in an Urban Community."

Mead, Lawrence. 1992. Chaps. 1 and 7 in The New Politics of Poverty. Basic Books.

Wacquant, Loic and William J. Wilson. 1989. "The Cost of Racial and Class Exclusion in the Inner City." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 501(January):8-25.

Fernandez Kelly, Patricia. 1995. "Social and Cultural Capital in the Urban Ghetto: Implications for the Economic Sociology of Immigration." PP. 213-247 in The Economic Sociology of Immigration, edited by Alejandro Portes. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Duneier, Mitchell. 1992. Chaps. 9-11 in Slim's Table. Univ. Of Chicago Press.

Nov. 4


Waldinger, Roger. 1986. "Changing Ladders and Musical Chairs: Ethnicity and Opportunity in Post-Industrial New York." Politics and Society 15(4):369-402.

Portes, Alejandro. 1995. "Economic Sociology and the Sociology of Immigration: A Conceptual Overview." Pp. 1-41 in The Economic Sociology of Immigration, edited by Alejandro Portes. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Zhou, Min and John Logan. 1989. "Returns on Human Capital in Ethnic Enclaves: New York City's Chinatown." American Sociological Review 54(5):809-820.

Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierette. 1994. Chap. 1: "Immigration, Gender and Settlement" and Chap. 6, "Women Consolidating Settlement" in Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration. Univ. Of California Press.

Butler, John Sibley. 1991. Chapter 1: "The Sociology of Entrepreneurship" and Chapter 2: "Race and Entrepreneurship: A Respecification" in Entrepreneurship and Self-Help among Black Americans by John Sibley Butler. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Nov. 11


Reskin, Barbara and Patricia Roos. 1990. Chaps. 2-3 in Job Queues, Gender Queues. Temple Univ. Press.

Browne, Irene and Leann Tigges. Forthcoming. "'Multiple Jeopardy:' African American Women in Atlanta's Labor Market." In The Atlanta Paradox: Race, Opportunity and Inequality in a New Southern City, edited by David Sjoquist. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Kilbourne, Barbara, Paula England and Kurt Beron. 1994. "Effects of Individual, Occupational, and Industrial Characteristics on Earnings: Intersections of Race and Gender." Social Forces 72(4):1149-1176.

Carlson, Susan. 1992. "Trends in Race/Sex Occupational Inequality: Conceptual and Measurement Issues." Social Problems 39(3):268-290.

Williams, Christine. 1992. "The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the 'Female' Professions." Social Problems 39(3):253-267.


Nov. 18


Weston, Kathleen and Lisa Rofel. 1984. "Sexuality, Class and Conflict in a Lesbian Workplace." Signs 9(4):623-646.

Acker, Joan. 1990. "Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations." Gender and Society 4(2) 139-158.

Rollins, Judith. 1985. Chap. 5: Deference and Maternalism. In Between Women: Domestics and Their Employers. Temple Press.

Kanter, Rosabeth. 1977. Chap. 7: Power. In Men and Women of the Corporation. Basic Books.

Fernandez-Kelly, M. Patricia and Anna Garcia. 1990. "Power Surrendered, Power Restored: The Politics of Work and Family among Hispanic Garment Workers in California and Florida." In Women, Politics and Change, edited by Louise Tilly and Patricia Gurin. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Nov. 25


Feagin, Joe and Melvin Sikes. 1994. Chapter 1: The Continuing Significance of Racism and Chapter 4: Navigating the Middle-Class Workplace. In Living With Racism: The Black Middle-class Experience. Boston: Beacon Press.

Bobo and Hutchings. 1996. "Perceptions of Racial Group Competition: Extending Blumer's Theory of Group Position to a Multiracial Context." American Sociological Review 61(6):951-972.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. "A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Law and Politics." The Politics of Law

Kennelley, Ivy. 1996. "'You've Got That Single Mother Element:' How Atlanta Employers View African-American Women as Employees." Master's Thesis. University of Georgia.

Lowell, B. Lindsay, Jay Teachman and Zhongren Jing. 1995. "Unintended Consequences of Immigration Reform: Discrimination and Hispanic Employment. Demography 617-628.

Woo, Deborah. 1989. "The Gap Between Striving and Achieving: The Case of Asian American Women" in Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian-American Women, edited by Asian Women United of California. Boston: Beacon Press.


O'Neill, June. "Discrimination and Income Differences." In Race and Gender in the American Economy: Views from Across the Spectrum, Edited by Susan Feiner. Prentice-Hall.


Dec. 2


Burtless, Gary. 1995. "Employment Prospects of Welfare Recipients." Pp. 71-106 in The Work Alternative: Welfare Reform and the Realities of the Job Market. Edited by Demetra Smith Nightingale and Robert Haveman. Urban Institute Press.

Edin, Kathryn and Kathleen Mullan Harris. Forthcoming. "Getting Off and Staying Off: Race Differences in the Route Off Welfare." In Race, Gender and Economic Inequality: African American and Latina Women in the Labor Market, edited by Irene Browne. NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Corcoran, Mary. 1995. "Rags to Rags: Poverty and Mobility in the United States." Annual Review of Sociology 21:237-267.

Geronimus, Arline. 1996. "Teenage Childbearing and Personal Responsibility: An Alternative View." Working Paper #101. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Quadagno, Jill. 1994. Chap. 8 in The Color of Welfare. Oxford Univ. Press.

Dec. 9


West, Cornel. 1994. "Nihilism in Black America." In Race Matters by Cornel West. Vintage.

Haney, Lynne. 1996. "Homeboys, Babies, Men in Suits: The State and the Reproduction of Male Dominance." American Sociological Review 61(5):759-778.

Wilkerson, Doris. 1995. "Gender and Social Inequality: The Prevailing Significance of Race." In An American Dilemma Revisited, edited by Obie Clayton. NY: Russell Sage Foundation.


Residential Segregation

Frey, William H. and Reynolds Farley. 1996. "Latino, Asian and Black Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Are Multiethnic Metros Different?" Demography 33(1):35-50.

Entwisle, Doris, Karl Alexander and Linda Steffel Olson. "The Gender Gap in Math: Possible Origins in Neighborhood Effects." American Sociological Review 59(6):822-838.

Ethnic Enclaves

Sanders, Jimy and Victor Nee. 1996. "Social Capital, Human Capital and Immigrant Self-Employment." American Sociological Review 61(2):231-249.

Cintron, Aixa. Forthcoming. "Generational Dimensions of Structural Economic Change: Personal Narratives of New York Puerto Rican Women." In Race, Gender and Economic Inequality: African American and Latina Women in the Labor Market, edited by Irene Browne. NY: The Russell Sage Foundation.

Sex Segregation of the Labor Market

Bielby, William and Denise Bielby. 1992. "Cumulative Versus Continuous Disadvantage in an Unstructured Labor Market: Gender Differences in the Careers of Television Writers." Work and Occupations 19(4):366-387.

Reskin, Barbara. 1993. "Sex Segregation in the Workplace." Pp. 241-270 in Annual Review of Sociology 19:241-270.


Howitt, Dennis and J. Owusu-Bempah. 1990. "The Pragmatics of Institutional Racism: Beyond Words," Human Relations 43(9):885-899.

Badgett, Lee. 1995. "The Wage Effects of Sexual Orientation Discrimination." Industrial and Labor Relations Review 48(4):726-739.

Lempert, Richard and Karl Monsma. 1994. "Cultural Differences and Discrimination: Samoans before a Public Housing Eviction Board." American Sociological Review 59(6): 910.

Poverty and Welfare Policy

Blank, Rebecca. 1995. "Outlook for the US Labor Market and Prospects for Low-wage Entry Jobs." In Nightingale and Haveman, eds.

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