In the case study, “The Effects of Race and Family Structure on Women’s Spatial Relationship to the Labor Market,” by James R. Elliott and Marilyn S. Joyce, I learned a lot about women’s relationship to the Labor market. This cast study was conducted to examine women’s spatial relationships to the labor market and the to find out how these relationships relate to expected earnings because they were a huge role in the recent debates over gender and racial inequalities in the labor market. With survey data from three major metro labor markets from the Multi-City Survey of Urban Inequality, James and Marilyn were able to come up with an analysis. These surveys had information on commute times, modes of transit, and job contacts for a heterogeneous population of working women in a diverse set of metro areas. Before studying the survey and making a conclusion from it, they started out with the assumption that race and gender represent social relations and not individual attributes. This basic assumption about gender is exactly like what we have read earlier from Butler’s reading, “Gender Trouble,” that the body is not what gives meaning to itself but that it is instead, socially constructed. From the survey, they concluded that women’s spactial relationships to the labor are strongly more influenced by race and ethnic relations than by family structure and attendant “gendered” expectations. They interpreted that the reason why minority women tend to work in poorer condition jobs and with lower paid jobs than white women is because they have poorer access to private transportation and job connections, outside of their residential neighborhoods. In further detail, minority women tend to get their job contacts from their neighbors, who usually are just like them, and would just lead them to low-wage jobs whereas if they gotten job connections through other channels, they would get jobs that pay significantly higher. Also for the fact that they have poorer access to transportation needs, they have a lower wage job than white women. A solution that they came up with for anyone who wanted to eliminate this problem of racial differences is that they could try to get the minority women and especially the ones without college degrees to enter “work-first” programs that would educate them on how to find formal job-search skills and networking opportunities.
They said that that solution might work but according to the research of Chapple (2001), it shows that such programs to help minority women rarely work and only increase women’s job networks and not lead to increase pay above the minimum wage, only introduces them to seek other low-wage jobseekers in the community. Another way that might be more effective in the long-term is to improve spatial coverage and also make efficiency of mass transit. By doing this, then working women that do not have access to private transportation could get to more places and therefore be surrounded by more job opportunities. Currently, the Transportation Equity Act and Reverse Job Access projects might be something that could eliminate the racial difference by proving transportation assistance to low-wage workers. Even though there are these possible solutions that might work, we should not depend on them to eliminate the racial wage inequality among women completely and that even though if minority women could get to work faster and get better access to jobs, they might just still receive lower income than white women and so this research will be further more studied on.
Along with the case study, James and Marilyn also included some useful observations that a common argument about gender is that marriage and motherhood, according to cultural expectations encourage women to work closer to their home and so when they have to work closer to home, this narrow down job opportunities and expected wages for them. Also, since minority live according to the “spactial mismatch” thesis which states that whites tend to live closer to booming suburban job opportunities, and urban minorities tend to remain isolated in inner cities, they are spatially mismatch from new job opportunities. Also, mode of transit for minority people is usually the bus instead of by car, which makes their distance traveling worm home to work longer. With this, the minority women, when compared to white women have a higher unemployment rate, and therefore they will have insufficient information and access to jobs since they live farther from job opportunities and have to spend more time getting to work than white women. According to researchers, women tend to place a spatial restriction in order to save time for domestic household work so if these women place such restrictions this just makes it harder for them to obtain a good job since good jobs are hard to find. They say that not to exclude out the man from domestic household work but now, there are man who do these kinds of work but according to this case article, research still continues to show that the distribution of household chores is still far from being equal among these two genders and the traditional gendered expectations related to household and childcare is still pretty much the same. In fact, in 1996, about 60 percent of respondents still claimed that the all individuals in the family benefits when it is the woman who is responsible for home and childcare and when men is the one who provide for the financial support. Further more, 84 percent of respondents also agree that women are fit to be responsible for the care of home and children since, “they are trained to perform this role from childhood (Elliott and Joyce, p. 2).”
After reading this, I am quite amazed at what I did not know before reading this. I have always thought that there was something wrong with the employment system but was not exactly sure why there seemed to be more white people who can get a higher wage job than minority people. I never really consider about how we get our job contact can play a big role in determining what type of job you would get. I also found it useful, for me and for other readers since this could help us understand and perhaps can make the necessary changes for a better job or future. When James and Marilyn talked about how a woman tend to work closer to home, this might not be true to every culture, I agree with that because in our culture, Hmong,. if a woman were married, her in-laws and especially her husband would not want her to work too far away from home. A reason for this is because she might take away a lot of time from domestic work, just like it was mentioned in the article.
James and Marilyn stated that, “men, as a group, benefit, intentionally or not, from the subjugation of women; likewise, whites, benefit from the subjugation of racial minorities (Elliott and Joyce, p.2).” While this may hold true in a way and may tend to be like this anymore, I do not really agree completely with it because it is not true in every situation. In the years before the 1900’s, this might be true because back then, women did not have as much rights as right now and also, back then, there seem to be more racism going on, like the situation of slavery with the black people. The white people seemed to benefit a lot from using the black people as slaves to pick cottons from their fields and work for them without any payments to them. Also, when James and Marilyn talked about how more of the respondents agree that women are fit to be responsible for the care of home and children since they were trained to know the role of a women I thought this was pretty much like what Butler has talked about in “Gender Issues,” that gender is socially constructed and by repeating or performing certain acts over and over again. All of these beliefs about gender came from how society came to believe what was considered for females and male to perform in order for them to be fully considered women or male and they prove this by doing what was considered by society as normal fit for their assigned gender through repeated acts. Although these surveys about how many respondents actually still believe in this gender role expectation thing, this may be still be true but then again, these two surveys were not current so things right now might be different now or have change already.
Elliott, James R. 2004. “The Effects of Race and Family Structure on Women’s Spatial Relationship to the Labor Market.” Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 74. No. 3. pages. 1-35.
Below is a link to the copy of this case study article: