Particularism and racial mobility into privileged occupations

George Wilson, Nicholas Petersen, Ryan Smith, David Maume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We assess whether the “particularistic mobility thesis” the predominant theory used to explain African American/White differences in mobility dynamics into occupationally privileged positions in the American labor market is applicable across a greater range of occupational destinations than previously considered, and, if so, whether it captures a racialized “glass ceiling”. Findings from a 2009–2014 Panel Study of Income Dynamics sample of men support broadening the scope of theory. Specifically, across four white-collar and blue-collar privileged destinations, African Americans, relative to, Whites, have low rates of mobility and are restricted to relying on a circumscribed and formal mobility route that is structured by a traditional range of stratification-based causal factors, i.e., background socio-economic status, human capital and job/labor market characteristics. In addition, a racialized glass ceiling in mobility prospects emerges across destinations based on two criteria—income and supervisory authority. We discuss how the application of theory in this broader context enhances our understanding of race-based access to occupational privilege in contemporary America and sheds light on the immediate and longer-term patterns of racial stratification in the American labor market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Science Research
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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