Occupational inequality

Occupational Inequality is the unequal treatment of people based on gender or race in the workplace. When researchers study trends in occupational inequality they usually focus on distribution or allocation pattern of groups across occupations, for example, the distribution of men compared to women in a certain occupation. Secondly, they focus on the link between occupation and income, for example, comparing the income of whites with blacks in the same occupation.


Occupational inequality greatly affects the socioeconomic status of an individual which is linked with their access to resources like finding a job, buying a house, etc. If an individual experiences occupational inequality, it may be more difficult for them to find a job, advance in their job, get a loan or buy a house. Occupational standing can lead to predictions of outcomes such as social standing and wealth which have long lasting effects on the individual as well as their dependents. Segregation by gender in the labor force is extremely high, hence the reason why there remain so many disparities and inequalities among men and women of equitable qualifications. The division of labor is a central feature for gender based inequality. It influences the structure both based on its' economic aspects and construction of identities. However, studies show that the general overall picture of gender and labor has not been evaluated. The importance of these issues is pertinent for the future structure of our labor force.


The enactment of federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws were passed in the 1960s to enforce equal employment opportunities and to eradicate past discrimination against women and minority men in the workplace. In the 1960s and 1970s, the US saw a tremendous decrease in occupational inequality; however, in the 1980s and 1990s, it began to rise again.


Occupational inequality has historically always been a problem, but could diminish over time, according to Richard A. Miech, who attributes this potential change to economic theory. He determines that race and sex discrimination is inefficient in a competitive world because it calls for only white men to be employed. White men, however, will demand a higher salary than women or people of other races who have the same education and abilities, thus discriminating employers lose more money. Non-discriminating employers can gain an edge in the competitive market by hiring women and minorities, thereby reducing occupational inequality. This plan, if taken on by employers, could perpetuate over time to other employers in which occupational inequality could decrease nationally. Other theories and research suggests occupational inequality is increasing and will continue to do so.

According to the process of "aging effects", occupational inequality will continue with advancing age. According to this theory, the labor market consists of two sectors of jobs; one is the "primary" core of good jobs with good working conditions, advancement opportunities and job safety. The other is the "peripheral" sector of bad jobs with bad working conditions, low advancement opportunities and little job safety. Mobility between these two groups is very difficult. Women and minorities are disproportionately placed into the peripheral sector early on in their careers with little chance of moving into the primary group to achieve equal occupational status.

The theory of "homosocial reproduction" points to a trend where those in high position tend to pick the employees who have similar social backgrounds as their own for advancement. Since the majority of managers are men, women are less chosen for career advancement and thus occupational inequality increases.

Measuring Occupational Inequality

The Duncan Socioeconomic Index (SEI) has been most commonly used to measure Occupational Status. It is based on two factors, occupational earnings and occupational education.

One way occupational inequality is measured is by the index of dissimilarity (D). The equation is as follows: D=?i|Xi-Yi|

where Xi equals the percent of race or sex group X in the labor force in occupation i and Yi equals the percent of race or sex group Y in occupation i. D is the measure of one half the sum of the absolute difference between the percentage distributions. The values range from 0 to 100 and measures the relative separation or integration of groups across an area. If the value equals 0% it means the area is distributed evenly. If the value is 100% it means the area is completely segregated. If the value is 60%, for example, it means 60% of workers would have to change occupations to make the distributions equal.

Occupational Inequality and Occupational Segregation

Occupational inequality is often linked with occupational segregation in a work place. The greater the segregation in a workplace, the greater the occupational inequality. This is true specifically for jobs dominated by a certain minority or women. They often have bad work environments and less income than white males who usually make up the managerial positions with better work environments and more pay.

See also

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This article is based on "Occupational inequality" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Occupational+inequality&action=history