Jim Crow, Ethnic Enclaves, and Status Attainment: Occupational Mobility among U.S. Blacks, 1880-1940

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Demographic and ecological theories yieldmixed evidence as to whether ethnic enclaves are a benefit or a hindrance to the status attainment of residents and entrepreneurs. This article provides one possible theoretical resolution by separating the positive effects that may emanate among co-ethnic neighbors from the negative effects that may resultwith the concentration of racial or ethnic groups. The theory is tested by analyzing occupational wage attainment and entrepreneurship among African-Americans between 1880 and 1940, a historical context in which Jim Crow laws imposed segregation exogenously. Drawing on crosssectional and panel census data for representative samples of blacks in theUnited States, the results suggest consistent upward occupational mobilityamong residents with same-race neighbors, accompanied with downward mobility among residents who are concentrated in larger racialized enclaves. Both patterns are also observed in the distribution of entrepreneurial activity among blacks during the Jim Crow era.





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Ruef, M, and Angelina Grigoryeva (2018). Jim Crow, Ethnic Enclaves, and Status Attainment: Occupational Mobility among U.S. Blacks, 1880-1940. American Journal of Sociology, 124(3). pp. 814–859. 10.1086/701020 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26599.

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Martin Ruef

Jack and Pamela Egan Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

My research considers the social context of entrepreneurship from both a contemporary and historical perspective. I draw on large-scale surveys of entrepreneurs in the United States to explore processes of team formation, innovation, exchange, and boundary maintenance in nascent business startups. My historical analyses address entrepreneurial activity and constraint during periods of profound institutional change. This work has considered a diverse range of sectors, including the organizational transformation of Southern agriculture and industry after the Civil War, African American entrepreneurship under Jim Crow, the transition of the U.S. healthcare system from professional monopoly to managed care, and the character of entrepreneurship during early mercantile and industrial capitalism.

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