The Opportunity Structure for Discrimination

Trond Petersen*, Ishak Saporta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Gender disparities in wages and attainment caused by employer discrimination can come about by three very different processes: allocative discrimination, within-job wage discrimination, and valuative discrimination. For the United States, it has been established that within-job wage discrimination no longer is a major source of wage differences, while valuative discrimination potentially is. Less known is the role of allocative discrimination, especially in the hiring process, which we identify as the point where discrimination is most feasible. Our analysis uses personnel data on all entrants into a large U.S. service organization in the period 1978-86, focusing on managerial, administrative, and professional employees. We study the placement at initial hire and then follow job levels, wages, promotions, as well as departures, in years subsequent to hire.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-901
Number of pages50
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2004


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