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Race and the Invisible Hand

How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs

Deirdre Royster (Author), Stephen Steinberg (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 242 pages
ISBN: 9780520239517
October 2003
$34.95, £27.00
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From the time of Booker T. Washington to today, and William Julius Wilson, the advice dispensed to young black men has invariably been, "Get a trade." Deirdre Royster has put this folk wisdom to an empirical test—and, in Race and the Invisible Hand, exposes the subtleties and discrepancies of a workplace that favors the white job-seeker over the black. At the heart of this study is the question: Is there something about young black men that makes them less desirable as workers than their white peers? And if not, then why do black men trail white men in earnings and employment rates? Royster seeks an answer in the experiences of 25 black and 25 white men who graduated from the same vocational school and sought jobs in the same blue-collar labor market in the early 1990s. After seriously examining the educational performances, work ethics, and values of the black men for unique deficiencies, her study reveals the greatest difference between young black and white men—access to the kinds of contacts that really help in the job search and entry process.
List of Tables

1. Introduction
2. "Invisible" and Visible Hands: Racial Disparity in the Labor Market
3. From School to Work . . . in Black and White: A Case Study
4. Getting a Job, Not Getting a Job: Employment Divergence Begins
5. Evaluating Market Explanations: The Declining Significance of Race and Racial Deficits Approaches
6. Embedded Transitions: School Ties and the Unanticipated Significance of Race
7. Networks of Inclusion, Networks of Exclusion: The Production and Maintenance of Segregated Opportunity Structures
8. White Privilege and Black Accommodation: Where Past and Contemporary Discrimination Converge

Appendix: Subjects’ Occupations at the Time of the Study
Deirdre Royster joined the College of William and Mary faculty in 2002 as an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and currently serves as chair of the department. Royster received her doctorate in sociology from the Johns Hopkins University in 1996 and worked from 1996-2000 as an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Campus. Her research has been supported by the American Sociological Association, the Social Science Research Council, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Academy of Education and she is beginning a new project on the significance of the Crosson v. Richmond case for African American construction firms and workers.
“Stands as a powerful counterbalance to those who would continue to blame the discarded victims of an uncaring economic system for their own plight.”—Kam Williams Afro-American Baltimore
"Deirdre Royster's moving and engaging study convincingly and uniquely captures racial differences in school to work transition. Her data on and analysis of the differential employment experiences and outcomes of comparable young black and white working class males are very compelling. Race and the Invisible Hand is an important book that will be widely read and cited."—William Julius Wilson, author of The Bridge Over the Racial Divide

"As acute in its analysis as it is rich in ethnographic detail, Royster's captivating study shows in telling detail how inequalities in the securing of good working class jobs are reproduced in the anything-but-colorblind contemporary United States."—David Roediger, author of Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past

"An unflinching look at the experiences of young blue collar job-seekers on both sides of America's color line. This book powerfully demonstrates the hidden workings of racial discrimination today."—Chris Tilly, co- author of Stories Employers Tell: Race, Skill, and Hiring in America

"Timely and challenging, this book exposes race as the key arbiter of employment outcomes for young black and white men. This beautifully written study is absolutely essential for policy makers, educators and researchers."—Mary Romero, author of Maid in the USA

"An important study. As policymakers keep trying to improve blacks' employment opportunities with new versions of job training programs, Royster shows how irrelevant such efforts are as long as blacks lack access to essential social contacts."—James E. Rosenbaum, author of Beyond College for All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half

"A powerful and original empirical account that persuasively demonstrates how visible hands invisibly reproduce racial inequality in the blue collar trades. Systematically comparing young black and white men who share the same educational credentials, grades, attendance records, commitment to hard work, motivation and character, Royster convincingly illustrates the process through which white students gain the inside track to jobs. Differential employment outcomes, she demonstrates conclusively, are the result of bad old-fashioned race discrimination in new guises."—David Wellman, author of Portraits of White Racism

"Accessibly written, Race and the Invisible Hand makes visible the powerful role of racially segregated and race-conscious social networks in creating labor market inequality. This important book is theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich--a must read for students and scholars interested in social networks, employment inequality and how race really works in the United States today."—Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, author of Gender and Racial Inequality at Work

"A vitally important contribution to the literature on employment opportunities and race. In a period in which affirmative action is under increasingly bold attack from those who argue that market forces alone should shape employment decisions, this book provides strong empirical support that racially-homogenous acquaintance networks routinely trump the market. One can only hope that appellate and Supreme Court justices read this book."—Troy Duster, co-author of Whitewashing Race

"This beautifully written book blows apart the notion that black young men don't get decent blue collar jobs because of their own deficiencies…. This is a unique and powerful study of the way racial disadvantage is perpetuated in the working class, even in this era of so-called color blindness. I predict it will be a classic."—Edna Bonacich, coauthor of Behind the Label

Racial and Ethnic Minorites Section Oliver Cromwell Cox Award, American Sociological Association

C. Wright Mills Award Finalist, Society for the Study of Social Problems

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