THE RESEARCH described in the previous chapter is individualistic. Inequality is understood as the consequence of differences among individuals. An alternative is to use the group rather than the individual as the basic unit of analysis. From this more sociological perspective, inequality is described by comparing groups rather than individuals, and inequality is explained by conflict among groups rather than by competition among individuals.
Individualistic analysis dominates orthodox economics. There are, however, alternative approaches in labor economics which use some notion of 'group' or 'labor segment' as the basic unit of analysis. This chapter describes several examples of segmental analysis and defends the segmentation approach against criticisms arising from orthodox economics.
The various segmentation approaches differ in their definitions of labor segments. For example, a prescribed segment might be self-employed professionals, unskilled black males, or the United Farm Workers. It is sometimes unclear as to whether labor segments are to be thought of as a set of jobs or a set of workers. Although it is most useful to regard a labor segment as, by definition, a set of jobs, labor segments are almost invariably defined in such a way that workers of a particular labor segment constitute a meaningful social group.
We shall examine three traditions in labor economics that embody the segmentation approach. The theory of "noncompeting groups," current in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, conceived of