Bureau of Sociological Research (BOSR)


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Published in Social Problems, Vol. 55, Issue 4, pp. 549–572, ISSN 0037-7791, electronic ISSN 1533-8533. © 2008 by Society for the Study of Social Problems, Inc. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website at www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintinfo/asp. DOI: 10.1525/sp.2008.55.4.549.


Is there an association between occupational racial composition and nonfatal workplace injuries? Guided by several labor market theories (queuing, social closure, devaluation, poor market position, and human capital), we use occupational data from the U.S. Census and Dictionary of Occupational Titles combined with individual data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to answer this question. Hierarchical generalized linear models of individuals within occupations show that there is an association between occupational racial composition and workplace injuries, but this association is only statistically significant for white men in the model controlling for relevant occupational and individual level characteristics. A 10 percent increase in the occupation percent black is associated with a 28 percent increase in injury risk. Contrary to expectations, white men have the highest adjusted odds of injury; white women and black men have significantly lower odds of injury than white men. Additionally, occupation-level environmental hazards and individual-level education, hours worked per week, jobs with insurance benefits, working in the South, and specific industries are associated with differential injury risk. These findings are consistent with labor market theories that suggest social closure, market position, and individual skills contribute to differential labor market outcomes. We demonstrate that sociological theories of labor market inequality are useful for understanding workplace injury risk, and that workplace injuries should be studied as an outcome of social inequality. Keywords: occupational racial composition, work injury, health, labor markets, and social inequality.

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