Monday, May 6, 2013

"Segregated lives"

I've been thinking a lot about social and economic distance and what seems to be the increasing difficulty with which information travels to certain parts of the network and the tendency for members of certain subnetworks to mistake local perception for the global.

I suspect that Congress's swift action on the FAA (compared with complete inaction concerning the rest of the sequester) was based in part on mistaking attitudes toward flight delays within their subgroup for the attitudes of the nation as a whole.

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Likewise the coverage of over-the-air television has been rife with errors and omissions (see here and here and almost every other story on the subject) in part because it's a product used primarily by the lower and lower-middle class.

Another aspect of this increased distance is greater difficulty forming professional networks that reach across demographics and economic and educational strata.

From How Social Networks Drive Black Unemployment by Nancy Ditomaso
You don’t usually need a strong social network to land a low-wage job at a fast-food restaurant or retail store. But trying to land a coveted position that offers a good salary and benefits is a different story. To gain an edge, job seekers actively work connections with friends and family members in pursuit of these opportunities.

Help is not given to just anyone, nor is it available from everyone. Inequality reproduces itself because help is typically reserved for people who are “like me”: the people who live in my neighborhood, those who attend my church or school or those with whom I have worked in the past. It is only natural that when there are jobs to be had, people who know about them will tell the people who are close to them, those with whom they identify, and those who at some point can reciprocate the favor.

Because we still live largely segregated lives, such networking fosters categorical inequality: whites help other whites, especially when unemployment is high. Although people from every background may try to help their own, whites are more likely to hold the sorts of jobs that are protected from market competition, that pay a living wage and that have the potential to teach skills and allow for job training and advancement. So, just as opportunities are unequally distributed, they are also unequally redistributed.

All of this may make sense intuitively, but most people are unaware of the way racial ties affect their job prospects.
Lots more on this coming soon.

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