Mind & Society

, 8:173 | Cite as

Modelling the emergence and dynamics of social and workplace segregation

  • Mohamed AbdouEmail author
  • Nigel Gilbert


The relationship between social segregation and workplace segregation has been traditionally studied as a one-way causal relationship mediated by referral hiring. In this paper we introduce an alternative framework which describes the dynamic relationships between social segregation, workplace segregation, individuals’ homophily levels, and referral hiring. An agent-based simulation model was developed based on this framework. The model describes the process of continuous change in composition of workplaces and social networks of agents, and how this process affects levels of workplace segregation and the segregation of social networks of the agents (people). It is concluded that: (1) social segregation and workplace segregation may co-evolve even when hiring of workers occurs mainly through formal channels and the population is initially integrated (2) majority groups tend to be more homophilous than minority groups, and (3) referral hiring may be beneficial for minority groups when the population is highly segregated.


Social networks Segregation Referral hiring Agent-based simulation 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 5th annual conference of European Social Simulation Association (ESSA), Brescia, September 2008. We thank the anonymous referees for their useful comments and suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education through its scholarship scheme.


  1. Allport GW (1954) The nature of prejudice. Addison-Wesley, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Amir Y (1969) Contact hypothesis in ethnic relations. Psychol Bull 71:319–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker GS (1971) The economics of discrimination. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  4. Calvó-Armengol A, Jackson MO (2004) The effects of social networks on employment and inequality. Am Econ Rev 94:426–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Calvó-Armengol A, Jackson MO (2007) Networks in labor markets: wage and employment dynamics and inequality. J Econ Theory 132:27–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carrington WJ, Troske KR (1997) On measuring segregation in samples with small units. J Bus Econ Stat 15:402–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carrington WJ, Troske KR (1998) Interfirm segregation and the black/white wage gap. J Labor Econ 16:231–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Elliott JR (2001) Referral hiring and ethnically homogeneous jobs: how prevalent is the connection and for whom? Soc Sci Res 30:401–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ellison CG, Powers DA (1994) The contact hypothesis and racial attitudes among black Americans. Soc Sci Q 75:385–400Google Scholar
  10. Emerson MO, Kimbro RT, Yancey G (2002) Contact theory extended: the effects of prior racial contact on current social ties. Soc Sci Q 83:745–761CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fischer CS (1982) To dwell among friends. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  12. Freeman LC (1978) Segregation in social networks. Sociol Methods Res 6:411–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gemkow S, Neugart M (2008) Referral hiring, endogenous social networks, and inequality: an agent-based analysis. Conf Eur Soc Simul Assoc, BresciaGoogle Scholar
  14. Gilbert N, Troitzsch KG (2005) Simulation for the social scientist. Open University Press, Milton KeynesGoogle Scholar
  15. Glass J (1990) The impact of occupational segregation on working conditions. Soc Forces 68:779–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Granovetter MS (1973) The strength of weak ties. Am J Soc 78:1360–1380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Granovetter MS (1995) Getting a job: a study of contacts and careers. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  18. Grossetti M (2005) Where do social relations come from? Soc Netw 27:289–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holzer HJ (1998) Why do small establishments hire fewer blacks than large ones? J Hum Resour 33:896–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ioannides YM, Loury LD (2004) Job information networks, neighborhood effects, and inequality. J Econ Lit 42:1056–1093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jackson MO (2004) Survey of models of network formation: stablity and efficiency. In: Demange G, Wooders M (eds) Group formation in economics: networks, clubs, and coalitions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 11–88Google Scholar
  22. James DR, Taeuber KE (1985) Measures of segregation. Sociol Methodol 15:1–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krauth BV (2004) A dynamic model of job networking and social influences on employment. J Econ Dyn Control 28:1185–1204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCallister L, Fischer CS (1983) A procedure for surveying personal networks. In: Burt RS, Minor MJ (eds) Applied network analysis: a methodological introduction. Sage Publications, London, pp 75–88Google Scholar
  25. McPherson M, Smith-Lovin L, Cook JM (2001) Birds of a feather: homophily in social networks. Annu Rev Sociol 27:415–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mouw T (2002) Are black workers missing the connection? The effect of spatial distance and employee referrals on interfirm racial segregation. Demography 39:507–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Robinson JL (1980) Physical distance and racial attitudes: a further examination of the contact hypothesis. Phylon 41:325–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schelling TC (1971) Dynamic models of segregation. J Math Sociol 1:143–186Google Scholar
  29. Sigelman L, Welch S (1993) The contact hypothesis revisited: black-white interaction and positive racial attitudes. Soc Forces 71:781–795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sørensen JB (2004) The organizational demography of racial employment segregation. Am J Sociol 110:626–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tassier T (2005) A Markov model of referral-based hiring and workplace segregation. J Math Sociol 29:233–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tassier T (2008) Referral hiring and gender segregation in the workplace. East Econ J 34:429–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tassier T, Menczer F (2008) Social network structure, segregation, and equality in a labor market with referral hiring. J Econ Behav Organ 66:514–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Watts DJ (1999) Small world networks: the dynamics of networks between order and randomness. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  35. Watts DJ, Strogatz SH (1998) Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature 393:440–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Williams JA (1964) Reduction of tension through intergroup contact: a social psychological interpretation. Pac Sociol Rev 7:81–88Google Scholar
  37. Yancey G (1999) An examination of the effects of residential and church integration on racial attitudes of whites. Sociol Perspect 42:279–304Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Fondazione Rosselli 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research in Social SimulationUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

Personalised recommendations