Sociology Unit 3

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Status inequality

Organisation of the job market

Barron and Norris

The ‘dual labour-market’ theory


Rex and Tomlinson (1979) argue that ethnic minority experience of both class and status inequality can lead to poverty, which is made more severe by racism. Consequently, a black underclass may be created which is marginalised and feels alienated and frustrated. Sometimes these feelings may erupt in the form of inner-city riots if young blacks feel they are being harassed by the police and socially excluded.

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      Racism helps justify low pay and poor working conditions because black workers are seen as second-class citizens. Capitalist employers benefit from the cheap labour of ethnic minorities.

•    Divide-and-rule

      If black and white workers unite then they are in a stronger position to campaign for better wages and conditions. But Marxists such as Castles and Kosack (1973) argue that employers prefer them to be divided by racism so they can played off against one another. Employers may use the black workforce as a ‘reserve army of labour’ to prevent white workers from demanding higher wages.

•    Scapegoating

            When a society is troubled by severe social and economic problems then widespread frustration and aggression can arise. Instead of directing this anger at the capitalist class, whites are sometimes tempted to pick on relatively vulnerable groups. They use black people as scapegoats

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Postmodernists such as Modood (1992) reject the notions of Weberian and Marxist sociology which seek to generalise and seek blanket explanations for ethnic groups as a whole. They stress difference and diversity among ethnic groups and focus on identity. They argue that the globalisation of culture has led to national cultural identities being eroded. British culture is not immune and all ethnicities, including white, have begun to ‘pick and mix’, producing an array of new hybrid identities. Racial difference becomes a matter of choice and racial disadvantage is impossible to discuss as ethnic identity is not fixed.

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Claire Alexander

  • Interviews and observations allow researchers to see people in their natural environment.
  • Alexander admits her research was cathartic (cleansing) and part of her own personal journey to connect with her Asian identity. 

  • She developed verstehen by walking in the shoes of the Asian youth she studied. 

  • Yasmin was equally responsible for the book.

  • The long length of the interviews makes them almost impossible to replicate.

  • Alexander has been criticised for not being able to apply her findings to all of society - she admits that ethnographic case studies like her own can only study a small group and therefore don’t reflect the diversity of society and its people.

  • Alexander has been criticised for over identifying with the boys she studied and brushing over violent behaviour


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The host–immigrant model

This theory depicted Britain as a basically stable, homogeneous and orderly society with a high degree of consensus over values and norms. This equilibrium was disturbed by the arrival of immigrant ‘strangers’ who subscribed to different sets of values. Patterson described the culture clash between West Indians (boisterous and noisy, and not in the habit of queuing at bus stops!) and the English hosts (who valued privacy, quiet and ‘keeping oneself to oneself’). The host–immigrant model interpreted these clashes in terms of understandable fears and anxieties on the part of the host community. The hosts were not actually racist, just very unsure about how to act towards the newcomers.

  • Some ethnic minority groups may have language problems which reduce their chances of finding employment in Britain. Modood et. al. (1997) found that three fifths of Bangladeshi women, half of Pakistani women, and one fifth of Pakistani and Bangladeshi men did not speak English, or only limited English.

Roberts (2001) writes from a functionalist perspective and states that cultural explanations of the economic differences between Asians and African-Caribbeans are plausible. Asian immigrants brought strong entrepreneurial traditions with them and these soon found expression in the establishment of ethnic businesses.

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Labour Force Survey

The sample for the LFS is drawn from the Land and Property Services Agency (LPSA) list. This is the most up-to-date listing of private households. People living in institutions are excluded.  A systematic random sample of 650 addresses is drawn each quarter (every three months) from the LPSA list. The LPSA addresses are sorted by district council and ward, so the sample is effectively stratified geographically. The sample size is 120,000 people from a cross section of households. First wave interviews are carried out by a team of interviewers who call at each address and attempt to obtain an interview. Questions are asked of every adult member of the household (aged 16 and over), with a few questions relating to each child in the household. The method used is a quantitative interviewer led questionnaire where the possible answers are pre coded (limited choice like a in a multiple choice). In the first instance the interview is face to face by telephone interviews are used thereafter.

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Ethnic diversity

Wadsworth (2001) summarises some of the key research findings on ethnic minority variations:

Those born in Britain seem to have a better overall labour market performance (in terms of pay and employment rates) than those born abroad. Nevertheless, they still do relatively worse overall than their white peers.

There are big differences in the labour market performances of ethnic minority groups. The Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities do relatively badly, while the Chinese and Indian communities do relatively well. The gains made by the African-Caribbean community seem to have stagnated among young men but not among young women.

Indians, on average, are doing almost as well as whites in terms of employment rates, occupational status and earnings. However, they still contain a substantial number of people who are on low incomes and vulnerable to unemployment.

Black Caribbeans have made uneven progress. Black children do have higher rates of poverty, and this is in some part due to living in lone-parent families. However, Black lone parents are more likely than their white counterparts to have paid jobs. Black women in general are more likely to work full-time, and to earn slightly more, than white women.


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Ethnic penalty

Heath and McMahon (1995) coined the term ‘ethnic penalty’ to refer to all the sources of disadvantage that might lead an ethnic minority group to fare less well than similarly qualified whites. The firm conclusion of the Cabinet Office report (2003) is that all ethnic minorities suffer an ethnic penalty. Even after like-for-like analysis, there is still an unexplained gap between whites and minorities in terms of their work situations and job rewards. After taking account of all potentially relevant factors (eg. differences in age, qualifications, geographical area), there is still an unexplained gap in their labour market achievements. This gap may be caused by racial discrimination, or possibly it is the result of some other, as yet unidentified, factors.


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Case studies

A case study involves the detailed examination of a single example of something, thus a case study could involve the study of a single institution, community or social group, an individual person, a particular historical event, or a single social action. In general, case studies make no claims to be representative.

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Ethnic disadvantage

An African Caribbean graduate is more than twice and an African seven times as likely to be unemployed as a white graduate.

Sewell argues black inner city boys are unduly influenced by rap stars, who socialize them into problematic values such misogyny, mega consumerism, violence and gun culture.

Bowling demonstrated through self-report studies that ethnic minorities are no more criminal than the ethnic majority suggesting higher ‘crime rates’, prosecution rates and  prison populations in the ethnic minority population are subject to social constructionism.
African Caribbean’s are 7X more likely to be stopped and searched.
The Macpherson report labelled the police as institutionally racist

35% of black people believe they will receive worse treatment than others from the Police.

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