« Back to Results

Empirical Approaches to Stratification

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)

Hosted By: Association for Social Economics
  • Chair: Madhavi Venkatesan, Northeastern University

A Tragedy of Stratification? Systematic Exclusion in Labor Market Matching of Migrants

Merve Burnazoglu
Utrecht University


I aim to challenge the standard framework in which systematic exclusion is overlooked as only a frictional phenomenon that fails to be captured in migrants’ labor market matching mechanisms. Societies organize and rank people in a hierarchical way, not only in terms of individual differences and characteristics but also with respect to social groups and categories of people. These macro patterns systematically subject some migrant groups to different forms of exclusion. Social stratification, explained in terms of social identity-based institutional structures, organizes labor markets into different destinations like clubs with sharply different sets of opportunities. It functions like a trap for migrants: it reinforces itself by reproducing systems of exclusion and creates dilemmas for migrants.

Can migrants organize themselves to avoid such traps or, as defined in this paper, tragedies? I show that exclusion is endogenous to employment as a type of good in the standard goods typology. Treating different types of employment opportunities as being like clubs, I investigate how migrants join or create alternative employment clubs as a response to real or perceived exclusion from native employment clubs. If these alternative clubs are “sticky” and discourage migrants from trying to join natives’ employment clubs that is characterized as exclusionary, the tragedy becomes inescapable. For migrants and also natives to escape the stratification trap, employment should be seen not only as an investment but also as a collective action problem targeting exclusion, the solution of which would benefit both.

Addressing Societal Externalities to Promote Racial Equality

Madhavi Venkatesan
Northeastern University


Beginning with the religiously legitimized marginalization of African slaves, inclusive of the establishment of the concept of “race” and racial hierarchy through craniometry and Social Darwinism, to the promotion of stereotype based on genetic inferiority, and finally, the endogenization of stereotype through regulation and institutionalized discrimination, this paper highlights the trade-off between morality and economic gain, referenced as societal externalities, in the construction of racial inequality. Societal externalities, the author argues, have affected social construction and social norms both within groups and across groups, with the intergenerational adoption of social norms resulting in implicit racial bias. Using economic theory and selected policy examples, the author discusses the racial bias inherent in economic assumptions and highlights how the exclusion of societal externalities in economic assessments has limited the value of related policy action in curbing racial inequality. The paper concludes with recommendations for incorporating societal externalities in economic evaluation along with the rationale for interdisciplinary collaboration in the development and implementation of policy focused on promoting racial equality.

Meta-Injustice and Stratification: The Case of Energy

Lynne Chester
University of Sydney
Amanda Elliot
University of Sydney
Robert McMaster
University of Glasgow


Systemic and widespread types of energy injustice, arising from energy sector restructuring, have emerged as a new form of inequality in contemporary capitalist economies. These injustices—across the energy continuum from production to consumption—are, in our view, a manifestation of social injustice suffered by particular groups and akin to an issue of stratification i.e. exclusion.

Fraser (2008) theorizes that the sources and outcomes of substantive social injustices—meta-injustice—occur within three interrelated domains (or spheres) i.e. the economic, cultural and political. Darity (2005) contends that stratification economics can explain the socio-economic processes generating wealth and income inequality between groups. Davis (2019) cogently illuminates the economics of exclusion through the research program of stratification economics.

In this paper, we argue that the arguments and analysis of stratification economics—which seeks to explain group-based inequality—can be enhanced using the lens of Fraser’s (2008) three-dimensional ‘meta-injustice’, and stratification economics provides a strong analytical tool to interrogate Fraser’s economic domain. We illustrate this argument through the phenomena of energy injustice.

Complexity, Diversity and Integration: Evidence from Recent US Immigration

Noé Wiener
University of Massachusetts-Amherst


This article proposes alternative measures of immigrant integration founded in information theory. By considering differences in the heterogeneity of outcomes between immigrants and natives, the proposed measures provide robust and non-parametric estimates of the extent to which cohorts remain defined by their national origin. Integration is furthermore premised on equality in the association between economic characteristics and incomes, so that other factors can begin to shape outcomes for immigrants and natives alike. Results for successive immigrant cohorts in the post-war era are presented using Census income data for the United States. The speed by which the mark of migration on incomes is fading for different cohorts appears to decline significantly over the analyzed period. The paper also presents evidence on the disadvantageous relationship between immigrant status, education and incomes, as well as the integration of immigrants into the US racial and gender hierarchy. Integration appears to be increasingly reserved for college-educated and white men, whereas incomes for Hispanic and less educated immigrants remain strongly shaped by immigrant status.
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics
  • O1 - Economic Development