Ethnicity and occupation

I recall when I heard one of Australia’s senior economists – a Good Guy IMO – observed that Aboriginal people very rarely drive taxis. It would be easy to portray this as racist. It is racist in the sense that it’s making distinctions between people and generalisations about them based on race. The thing is, it rings true (though I’m happy to be disabused of my agreement with this particular generalisation if the evidence exists to do so).

Anyway, it does square with anecdotal experience that some ethnicities seem to correlate with certain jobs – which one presumes is driven by, amongst other things, ethnicities preferences, and perhaps the way in which those of a given ethnicity might attract others to the same profession, by virtue of affinity. Indians might not be particularly keen on taxi-driving in the first place, but once some Indians are driving taxis, other Indians fancy it. Anyway, I think it’s all quite interesting. And I wonder how much this might be imagined, and how much it’s real.

And then I came upon this article!

We study the relationship between ethnicity, occupational choice, and entrepreneurship. Immigrant groups in the United States cluster in specific business sectors. For example, Koreans are 34 times more likely than other immigrants to operate dry cleaners, and Gujarati-speaking Indians are 108 times more likely to manage motels.

Who knew that Gujarati-speaking Indians were 108 times more likely to manage motels? Not me.

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Patrick
Patrick
6 years ago

I suspect that this is really an article about barriers to entry, knowledge transfer and informality, although possibly it does not link them together explicitly.

Certainly all topics worth understanding better!

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
6 years ago

Nicholas
One possible factor might be that for groups new arrivals, trying to find a job in a fairly crowded, stable ‘Eco-system’ , is that some niches might be relatively empty or high turnover: For example managing a motel – i.e. dealing with lots of ,sometimes pretty demanding and sometimes very strange customers, is not something most of us would want to do, regardless of the pay on offer.

derrida derider
derrida derider
6 years ago

Patrick’s right. Most businesses are created and jobs filled through personal networks (in fact the biggest reason the long tern unemployed tend to stay unemployed is that they lose those networks).

People underestimate the importance of costly information in real-life markets. Nepotism (broadly defined) is what makes the economic world go around.

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
6 years ago

Very true. And the young long term unemployed that I taught back in the early 90s mostly had never had networks to lose , in the first place.

GrueBleen
GrueBleen
6 years ago

If I stated that the majority of Aboriginals have darker skin colour than the majority of Europeans (especially non-Mediterranean Europeans), would that be racist ? If I observed that almost all Aboriginals are born in Australia (or very nearby) but that almost 25% of all other Australians were born outside of Australia, would that be racist ?

If I was to say that I drove a taxi in Melbourne for about 7 years (until 1971) and in that time I didn’t see one single Aboriginal taxi driver would that be racist ? Or would it just indicate that I didn’t drive a taxi in places where Aboriginals might comprise a visibly significant percentage of the local population ?

Strangely enough, I find that in Australia, native born Australians comprise some percentage of the workforce in just about every available job type – though they try to avoid the low paying ones. And that in Korea, Koreans comprise the majority (if not the totality) of the workforce in every available job type.

So maybe Koreans don’t really have a penchant for running dry cleaners after all. And maybe, when largish numbers of migrants come to a new country, they form ‘work ghettos’ right along with their ‘residential ghettos’ and yes, just maybe, ‘affinity’ is a significant consideration. Is saying that being racist ?