Hard Work is Not Enough (by Josh Medel)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:11 AM by Daniel Laurison

            To start off, I do want to state that, just like this dentist, I do value hard work. It is clear that this dentist does place work ethic very highly when it comes to social mobility. And while I do share this sentiment, I do want to push back on the idea that hard work is all someone needs to do to move forward. Unfortunately, there are many issues and barriers that prevents work ethic to being the only variable when it comes to social mobility. For this blog post, I will show examples on how race is a huge factor when it comes to social mobility.

             One of the first readings that I will like to bring up to highlight the effect race has on social mobility is Devah Pager’s The Mark of a Criminal Record. Pager had a research question on whether criminal record and race had any part when it comes to getting a callback from a job. Though for this blog post, I just want to focus on the race aspect so we don’t make things too complicated.

             Pager had four male auditors (two black and two white) that would apply at the same entry-level positions. When they were applying for these jobs, they all had the same objective characteristics (like work experience and educational attainment). This means that the only thing that would have been different is race.

             I would suggest to look at Figure 6 to see the main results of this study. In this graph, it is clear that race has a huge part when it comes to getting a callback from a job. Ignoring the criminal record aspect, the black auditors were half as likely to get a callback than their white counterparts. While only one study, I feel this illuminates that race has a huge part when it comes to getting hired. No matter how hard you work.

             Next, I want share an article written by Laura Shin titled The Racial Wealth Gap: Why A Typical White Household Has 16 Times The Wealth Of A Black One. Both the title and the the first figure shows how there does exist a huge racial wealth gap that prevents social mobility and other opportunities. The author goes on to make a point that the lack of economic security in both a Black and Latino household prevents investment in the younger members of the households.

             Another similar article I want to share is Oliver Shapiro's Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality. For this study, Shapiro wanted to look at the difference in income and social mobility between white and black households. Table 4.4 illuminates the vast contrast when it comes to income level between white and black households. Looking at the difference between income, I feel it is safe to say that there is a pattern of racial inequality that exists in society. And while not mentioned on this table, Shapiro also wrote that “For every dollar earned by white households, black households earn sixty two cents.”

With this said, I do want to ask our dentist friend to think on the importance race has when it comes to social mobility in the U.S.