Whether the public sector continues to offer African Americans an upwardly mobile “occupational niche” is unclear, especially in the face of contemporary reforms that run counter to workplace protections. In this article, and drawing on overtime data from Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we explore this question with a specific focus on the upward mobility of men into white-collar occupations. Findings suggest that the reform period of 2005–2010, characterized by increased employer discretion and an application of a “business model” to public sector work, undermined African American relative to White promotion prospects. What was once greater racial parity in the incidence, determinants, and timing of upward mobility during the pre-reform period (1985–1990) eroded during the reform period (2005–2010). Promotion-centered inequalities in the private sector, in contrast, while high, were more or less constant across the same time period. We conclude by discussing escalating public sector racial disadvantages, the processes undergirding them, and their implications for the likely contraction of the African American middle class.
- public sector
- racial inequality
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
- Sociology and Political Science