Race, Residence, and Underemployment: Fifty Years in Comparative Perspective, 1968–2017

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High underemployment has been a chronic structural feature of the rural United States for decades. In this paper, we assess whether and how inequalities in underemployment between metropolitan (metro) and nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) areas have changed over the course of the last five decades. Drawing on data from the March Current Population Survey from 1968 to 2017, we analyze inequality in the prevalence of underemployment between metro and nonmetro areas of the United States, paying special attention to differences between white, black, and Hispanic workers. Our results show that the underlying risk of underemployment has increased in both metro and nonmetro areas over the last 50 years. Nonmetro workers have consistently faced greater employment hardship compared to their metro counterparts, and these differences cannot be fully explained by differences in population characteristics. Nonmetro ethnoracial minorities have experienced particularly poor labor market outcomes. The disadvantage of ethnoracial minority status and rural residence is especially pronounced for nonmetro black workers, among whom underemployment has remained persistently high with only modest convergence with other workers. Hispanic workers also face an elevated risk of underemployment, but we observe a unique convergence between metro and nonmetro workers within this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-315
Number of pages41
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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