The Effects of the Intersection of Race, Gender and Educational Class on Occupational Prestige

By Lemelle, Anthony | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

The Effects of the Intersection of Race, Gender and Educational Class on Occupational Prestige


Lemelle, Anthony, The Western Journal of Black Studies


The Effects of the Intersection of Race, Gender and Educational Class on Occupational Prestige

Much of the research on gender and race inadvertently replays patriarchal values of family organization and way of life (Bourdieu, 2001; Neubeck and Cazenave, 2001). This also appears to be the case with research on the socioeconomic status of race and gender groups. This study follows those that are concerned with socioeconomic status and cultural capital (Darden and Kamel, 2000; Howe and McWilliam, 2001; Kesner and McKenry, 2001; Lindstrom, Hanson and Ostergren, 2001; McNeal, 2001; White and Sassler, 2000). Socioeconomic status is a factor in group stratification differences among African Americans (Celious and Daphna, 2001). In addition, there are other aspects of socioeconomic status that are related to this study. Geographical socioeconomic dispersion of racial and ethnic groups results in regional differences (Marzan, 2001; Wilson and Hammer, 2001). Marital quality or marital stability experienced by spouses is at risk when the socioeconomic attainments of wives equal or surpass those of their husbands (Vannoy and Cubbins, 2001). Deviance correlates with low socioeconomic status (Schissel, 2001).

It is true that some of the most progressive work is often unable to distinguish the effects of the intersection of race and gender in their studies because they follow a tradition that requires adherence to the "categorical imperative" that treats the three categories of race, gender and class as if they were separate and distinct categories; and the research usually treats these categories along with socioeconomic status as independent variables. In so doing, the formation of socioeconomic status may be obscured. The result would be to miss some of detrimental social processes and this might ultimately erroneously inform social policy. A conscious anti-essentialist effort to examine differences between gendered and raced groups should contribute profound salient observations about the reproduction of patriarchal relations. These observations may not match up with the usual imagined forms of social organization held by large segments of mainstream social scientists.

In this article I am presenting an analysis of 1990 Census Bureau data. By the 1990s the scholarly leadership involved with race and gender studies began to claim social and economic progress for both women and dominated racial groups based on meritocracy values. These gains were seen to be the effects of political legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Immigration Act of 1965. After the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, the federal government intervened in the South to end practices that excluded traditional racial groups and established them with full political, civil and social equality. The Immigration Act of 1965 ended Federal law making distinctions based on race and national origin in an effort to stop the attempt to control the future racial and ethnic character of the U.S. population. The practice of controlling the U.S. racial and ethnic character had been based on the view that some racial and ethnic groups were more suited to be Americans than others. In addition to these three pieces of legislation were the Equal Pay Equity Act (1963) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) that assisted in ending the long tradition of paying different wages to individuals based on ethnic, race and gender group membership. The Equal Pay Equity Act is the first federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in some job categories and in them it guarantees to men and women the same wages for the same work performed under the same conditions. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment because of sex, race, color, religion and national origin.

In spite of these political maneuvers and a prevailing ideology that individuals were being rewarded based on their merit and not their ethnicity, gender or race, it was becoming clear to many observers that in particular black and Latino males were not progressing as they should have been given the meritocracy claims.

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