Elliott, James R. 2001. “Referral Hiring and Ethnically Homogeneous Jobs: How Prevalent is the Connection and for Whom?” Social Science Research. 30:401-425.
Elliot (2001) questions a fundamental understanding of why certain jobs are ethnically homogeneously concentrated. Premised with three hypotheses, Elliot posits that 1- insider job referrals play a critical role in contemporary job matching, at least in Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles, 2- insider referrals vary in degree depending on immigrant status, at least when looking at the general groups of Whites, Blacks and Latinos (he does not specify the groups of Whites, Blacks and Latinos in the article), and 3- those who acquire a job through insider referrals will end up in a ethnically homogeneous job.
The Data for the study came primarily from the Multi-City Survey of Urban Inequality (MCSUI), which is a random sample from the cities Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles between 1992-1994. However, Detroit was excluded because job-matching questions were not asked.
In sum, Elliot found that 1/3 of new hires from 1992-1994 in Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles were a product of insider referrals. However, while immigrant status matters, ethnicity was the important factor when looking at the difference between native born and foreign-born. That is, in terms of ethnically homogeneous jobs entered, referrals did not significantly matter for Latinos or Whites—both entered ethnically homogeneous jobs regardless of insider referrals. Conversely, insider referrals were significant for native-born Blacks to enter ethnically homogeneous jobs, whereas, non-referrals (like answering ads, job agencies, etc.) led native-born Blacks to enter non-ethnically homogeneous jobs.
Although not written in the MCSUI, Elliot speculates that Latinos end up in ethnically homogeneous jobs regardless of insider referrals because of their language barriers. That is to say, because English is not the Latinos’ first language, job placement is relative to the ethnically homogeneous language necessities of the Latino groups.
Future Research needed:
1. Elliot writes mostly about native-born Blacks using formal means to find jobs, and minimal use of informal means. More research needs to be done on non-native-born Blacks, such as Nigerians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, etc. Perhaps this would only pertain to the bay area, but for example, if you walk into most any Fry’s Electronics, it is like management has an African exchange program going on. If you ask where the majority of the workers are from, they are, first of all, from foreign countries, and, second of all, most likely from Eastern African countries. Is it insider referrals that concentrate this type of occupation, or some other reasons?2. While Elliot speculates that Latinos are ethnically concentrated regardless of insider referrals because of language, I would speculate this is also because a huge Latino population is undocumented—just at one place I worked, there were Brazilians, Argentineans, Nicaraguans, Mexicans, and El Salvadorians all working under false social security cards. Perhaps ethnically concentrated jobs are also caused because the employers can get away with paying lower wages to those who them know are undocumented.
3. Finally, future research could be done on the difference between insider referrals patterns for men and women in low-income jobs.