Precarious Work, Race, Space and Labor Market Stratification in the New Economy.
Mai, Quan Dang Hien
The U.S labor market underwent fundamental changes in the last decades, among them are the precarization of work, the diversification of the workforce, and the transforming urban labor markets in the post-industrial era. The overarching research question of the dissertation is: How do these structural changes intersect to generate new forms of labor market stratification in the new economy? The dissertation consists of three interrelated studies. Chapter 2 focuses on precarious work and race, Chapter 3 on race and space, and Chapter 4 on work and space. Empirically, the dissertation relies primarily on an original large-scale and geographically-contextualized field experiment that involves submitting nearly 12,000 fictitious resumes to real job openings in 50 metropolitan areas. Chapter 2 asks how workers’ freelancing history intersects with their racial/ethnic identities to generate stratified outcome at hiring interface. I show that freelancers occupy a middling status between full-timers and unemployed workers, but the penalties associated with freelancing are not distributed equally across minority groups. For Black jobseekers, freelancing operates more like a ‘trap’ than a ‘bridge’. For Latinos, however, a successful freelancing career could serve as an alternative to another full-time job. Chapter 3 synthesizes two important but independent branches of literatures – the experimental literature on hiring discrimination and the quantitative literature linking minority concentration to labor market inequality – to explore how opportunity structures for minorities are affected by the demographic concentration of urban labor markets in which they operate. I found that the longstanding visibility-discrimination thesis is well-supported in the case of the Black-White comparison, but that this thesis cannot be extended straightforwardly to examine the Asian-White and Latino-White gap in labor market outcomes. Chapter 4 presents a theory that situates the scarring effect of unemployment in entrepreneurial background of urban markets and contributes to the growing scholarly attention on the contextualization of the unemployment experience. Using both experimental and panel data, I show that unemployed workers are more disadvantaged compared to full-timers in labor markets with high rates of self-employment.