Reaching the Top: Racial Differences in Mobility Paths to Upper-Tier Occupations

George Wilson, Ian Sakura-Lemessy, Jonathan West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


This study uses data from the 1988 to 1992 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to assess predictions from the particularistic mobility thesis concerning how African American and White males reach the Managers-Administrators and Professional-Technical census-based occupational categories. The findings provide support for the particularistic mobility thesis. In particular, African Americans, relative to Whites, attain both occupational categories on the basis of a narrow and circumscribed route: for African Americans, the acquisition of significant human capital credentials and experience at a similar level in the occupational structure in next-to-last job with the same employer are important prerequisites for moving into privileged occupations. Furthermore, analyses indicate that particularistic employment practices are more pronounced in the private than the public sector. The implications of the findings for explaining racial differences in representation in the two occupational categories are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-186
Number of pages22
JournalWork and Occupations
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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