It’s easy to believe the worst is over in the economic downturn. But for African-Americans, the pain continues — over 13 percent of black workers are unemployed, nearly twice the national average. And that’s not a new development: regardless of the economy, job prospects for African-Americans have long been significantly worse than for the country as a whole.
The most obvious explanation for this entrenched disparity is racial discrimination. But in my research I have found a somewhat different culprit: favoritism. Getting an inside edge by using help from family and friends is a powerful, hidden force driving inequality in the United States.
Such favoritism has a strong racial component. Through such seemingly innocuous networking, white Americans tend to help other whites, because social resources are concentrated among whites. If African-Americans are not part of the same networks, they will have a harder time finding decent jobs.
The mechanism that reproduces inequality, in other words, may be inclusion more than exclusion. And while exclusion or discrimination is illegal, inclusion or favoritism is not — meaning it can be more insidious and largely immune to legal challenges.
Favoritism is almost universal in today’s job market.
There’s no question that discrimination is still a problem in the American economy. But whites helping other whites is not the same as discrimination, and it is not illegal. Yet it may have a powerful effect on the access that African-Americans and other minorities have to good jobs, or even to the job market itself.
Nancy DiTomaso, the vice dean for faculty and research and a professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School, is the author of “The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality Without Racism.”
Read the rest of her article in The New York Times