Documenting Desegregation

Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private Sector Employment Since the Civil Rights Act

Kevin Stainback
Donald Tomaskovic-Devey
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 412
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  • Book Info
    Documenting Desegregation
    Book Description:

    Enacted nearly 50 years ago, the Civil Rights Act codified a new vision for American society by formally ending segregation and banning race and gender discrimination in the workplace. But how much change did the legislation actually produce? As employers responded to the law, did new and more subtle forms of inequality emerge in the workplace? In an insightful analysis that combines history with a rigorous empirical analysis of newly available data, Equal Opportunity at Work? offers the most comprehensive account to date of what has happened to equal opportunity in America—and what more needs to be done in order to achieve a truly integrated workforce. Weaving strands of history, cognitive psychology, and demography, Equal Opportunity at Work? provides a compelling exploration of the ways legislation can affect employer behavior and produce change. Authors Kevin Stainback and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey use a remarkable historical record—data from more than six million workplaces collected by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 1966—to present a sobering portrait of race and gender in the American workplace. Progress has been decidedly uneven: black men, black women, and white women have prospered in firms that rely on educational credentials when hiring, though white women have advanced more quickly. And white men have hardly fallen behind—they now hold more managerial positions than they did in 1964. The authors argue that the Civil Rights Act’s equal opportunity clauses have been most effective when accompanied by social movements demanding changes. EEOC data show that African-American men made rapid gains in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement. Similarly, white women gained access to more professional and managerial jobs in the 1970s as regulators and policymakers began to enact and enforce gender discrimination laws. By the 1980s, however, racial desegregation had stalled, reflecting the dimmed status of the civil rights agenda. Race and gender employment segregation remain high today, and alarmingly, many firms, particularly in high-wage industries, seem to be moving in the wrong direction and have shown signs of resegregating since the 1980s. To counter this worrying trend, the authors propose new methods to increase diversity by changing industry norms, holding human resources managers to account, and exerting renewed government pressure on large corporations to make equal employment opportunity a national priority. At a time of high unemployment and rising inequality, Equal Opportunity at Work? provides an incisive reexamination of America’s tortured pursuit of equal employment opportunity. This important new book will be an indispensable guide for those seeking to understand where America stands in fulfilling its promise of a workplace free from discrimination.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-788-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. About the Authors
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxxiv)

    In 1964 the U.S. Congress enacted, and President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Civil Rights Act. Although it was not the first or the last legislative moment of the civil rights movement, it was a pivotal one. The act outlawed segregation and discrimination by race, ethnicity, and religion in public education, public accommodations, voting, and federal assistance. Title VII of the act extended the equal opportunity principle to employment and for the first time explicitly mentioned “sex” as a protected category. It is this extension of rights to equal opportunity in employment, freedom from discrimination in employment, and the erosion of...

    • Chapter 1 Documenting Desegregation
      (pp. 3-49)

      Title vii of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended to reduce U.S. status-based employment discrimination. Its passage has been praised as one of the central moments in the extension of social, economic, and political rights to all adult citizens in the United States. Ironically, it also stands, historically, as one of the U.S. government’s most controversial actions, because it was arguably the most extensive attempt to regulate the behavior of private-sector organizations. Nearly fifty years later, remarkably little is known about how that law and associated political, legal, and administrative shifts affected racial and gender inequality in U.S....

    • Chapter 2 Hyper-Segregation in the Pre–Civil Rights Period
      (pp. 50-83)

      Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment segregation was deeply institutionalized in U.S. workplaces. During this historical moment, people in the United States understood that white men would occupy the most desirable jobs and hold authority over other groups. It was also assumed that women of all races and nonwhites of all genders would tend to occupy marginally rewarded jobs with little or no authority over others. These ongoing, society-wide patterns of social relations were both legally codified and normatively sanctioned, ensuring the maintenance of rigid race and gender hierarchies.

      The purpose of this chapter...

    • Chapter 3 The Era of Uncertainty, 1966 to 1972
      (pp. 84-117)

      In 1966 workplaces were extremely segregated by race and gender. We suspect that there had already been some minor declines in race segregation as a reaction to the civil rights movement, the passage of fair employment practice laws in many northern and western states, and President Kennedy’s 1961 executive order admonishing federal contractors take affirmative action in the hiring of African Americans. We now examine changes in the political landscape as well as in corporate employment practices between 1964 and 1972. How did private-sector employers respond to the changing contours of the political and legal landscape following the passage of...

    • Chapter 4 The Short Regulatory Decade, 1972 to 1980
      (pp. 118-154)

      A great deal changed after 1972. The federal regulatory apparatus became much more clearly defined and active. The women’s movement emerged as a powerful political force. In response, Congress and the courts made clear that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited “sex”-based discrimination and segregation in employment. Companies now knew that they needed to take seriously women’s employment opportunities. They knew that if they did not, they risked embarrassing and potentially expensive lawsuits from their employees or even from the federal government. If they were federal contractors, they were now at risk of being audited on the content...

    • Chapter 5 Desegregation in the Neoliberal Era, 1980 to 2005
      (pp. 155-178)

      When ronald reagan became president, the regulatory environment changed again; the EEOC and OFCCP were instructed to back off their enforcement mission, and whatever proactive commitment to equal opportunity that had once emanated from the executive branch ceased. While Reagan was blocked by a Democratic Congress from completely gutting EEO enforcement, it was clear that the pressure was off. Across the 1980s, personnel managers rebranded themselves as human resource managers with a core goal of business efficiency. They also rebranded the formalization-linked EEO policies of the 1970s as simply efficient human resource management. Any race- or gender-targeted policy or practice...

    • Chapter 6 Local Labor Market Competition and New Status Hierarchies
      (pp. 181-210)

      While examining the influence of national politics on desegregation trends, we have observed that desegregation trajectories vary dramatically by both demographic status and historical period. In this chapter, we document regional convergences in the patterns of segregation and access to good-quality jobs. When the civil rights movement was at its peak, it represented in part a struggle between the South and the rest of the country. The pre–Civil War South was built on slave labor. The post–Civil War South reinstituted the subordination of black labor through state-sanctioned segregation and Jim Crow laws to limit black democratic participation. The...

    • Chapter 7 Sector and Industry Segregation Trajectories
      (pp. 211-249)

      Workplaces are not all alike. They produce different products and services, with distinct mixes of technology, divisions of labor, and market structure. In this chapter, we investigate the distribution of desegregation patterns across sectors of the economy and in different industries. Largescale shifts in the nature of production are reflected in the sectors of the economy, while industries give us the local normative environments in which human resource practices develop. It is these normative environments that may nurture equal opportunity or tolerate discrimination.

      In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, technological revolutions dramatically altered the economic landscape. The period...

    • Chapter 8 Contemporary Workplace Dynamics
      (pp. 250-292)

      We have been focusing on the influence of political, industry, and spatial environments on workplace equal employment opportunity trajectories. In most approaches to organizational dynamics, it is such environmental factors that motivate firms to adjust their behavior. Capitalism, for example, is a dynamic economic system. That dynamism is thought to arise primarily from competition in markets that threaten the survival of stagnant firms. Market competition is the environmental pressure that forces innovation in production technologies and the invention of new products and services. In contrast, organizations in stable environments have a tendency toward inertia. Monopolists become lazy.

      Similarly, in the...

    • Chapter 9 National to Local Segregation Trajectories
      (pp. 293-322)

      History unfolds as a series of local events and cultural accounts. Local action produces local stories and understandings that over time accumulate into behaviors, trajectories of social change, or periods of equilibrium. These narratives are both material, embodied in practices, relationships, organizations, and the like, and cultural, retold as stories of what is natural, normal, right, and proper. People negotiate their social order and the boundaries of their practical and material constraints and their neighbors’ cultural understandings of what is possible and reasonable. The civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Act, and the women’s movement punctuated the monolithic mid-twentieth-century status...

  9. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 323-338)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 339-344)
  11. References
    (pp. 345-362)
  12. Index
    (pp. 363-378)