The Scope for Ethnicity
  • Sandra Wallman


Two observations of ethnicity at work — one demographic, the other privileged — set the scene for this volume. The demographic observation is readily made in any good-sized cosmopolitan city. It is that individuals of the same ethnic origin are not evenly distributed across the employment map. Particular ‘ethnic groups’ tend instead to be clustered in or around particular occupations, jobs or spheres of work, and these ‘ethnic’ concentrations are only rarely the effect of explicit job restrictions or of formal apartheid rules. Nor are they confined to single class or status levels: it is often the case that a definable ethnic category has moved in and occupied an entire industry, top to bottom. But the pattern of these concentrations is consistent only in principle, not in detail: while it is generally true that some ‘ethnic groups’ specialise in some jobs in any urban economy, it is not specifically true that any one such group occupies the same work niche everywhere, every time. The first observation therefore suggests both that the urban economy typically offers scope for ‘ethnic’ economic organisation in particular niches, and that the same niche is either not always available or not always appropriate to the same people.


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Copyright information

© Social Science Research Council 1979

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  • Sandra Wallman

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