Please join us for a colloquium being given by Martin Ruef, Jack and Pamela Egan Professor of Entrepreneurship at Duke University.
Jim Crow, Ethnic Economies, and Status Attainment: Occupational Mobility among U.S. Blacks, 1880-1940
Demographic and organizational theories yield mixed evidence as to whether ethnic economies are a benefit or hindrance to the status attainment of residents and entrepreneurs. In this paper, we provide one possible theoretical resolution by separating the positive effects that may emanate among co-ethnic neighbors from the negative effects that may result with the segregation of racial or ethnic groups. We test the theory 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 cross-sectional and panel Census data for representative samples of blacks in the United States, the results suggest a consistent increase in intra- and intergenerational mobility among 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. We conclude with thoughts on the possibility of bringing demographic, organizational, and historical perspectives into closer dialogue in understanding the spatial scale of ethnic economies.