Reputation, Risk, and Race: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Difference in Personal Contact Use and Receipt of Proactive Assistance



I used the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality to explore whether and to what extent reputation, measured as spotty work history, job-hopping, and previous incarceration, helps to explain why blacks are less likely than Latinos and whites to find work through personal contacts and why the assistance they do receive from job contacts is less proactive on average. Results reveal that racial differences in reputation are relatively minor, and so these do little to explain why the odds of personal contact use and receipt of proactive assistance are lower among blacks. There is evidence, however, that a stigma of race is operating during the job matching process and leading to lower rates of assistance for blacks. For instance, Latino and white job-hoppers are more likely to be matched to their jobs by personal contacts than their black counterparts, suggesting that blacks are less likely to get help than their white and Latino counterparts with similar reputations. The one exception to this is with regard to ex-offender status where black ex-offenders are more likely than their white counterparts to be assisted. This finding, however, can also be explained through a racial stigma framework. Finally, although reputation also helps to explain the odds of receiving proactive assistance, and although Latino ex-offenders are significantly more likely to be assisted proactively than are blacks, reputation does little to explain why blacks are less likely to receive proactive assistance. The implications of these findings are discussed.