Some social scientists are sceptical of the explanatory power of ethnicity and seek to explain ethnic differences by references to non-ethnic factors such as discrimination. We challenge this scepticism by considering two theoretical objections: there is no such thing as ethnicity and ethnic categories are unable to explain social processes; and by showing how ethnic strategies affect outcomes that cannot be captured in standard ethnic penalty analyses, we offer a new way to examine ethnic penalties in unemployment. We calculate a set of net ethnic penalties and then analyse longitudinal labour-force data to examine how strategies such as self-employment change ethnic penalties in unemployment amongst six different ethnic groups in Britain. The results show that self-employment reduces the ethnic penalty for Indians, Pakistanis-Bangladeshis and others, but not for Blacks, White-Others and White-British. This supports the argument that ethnicity can provide an explanation for some of the ethnic differentials in the labour market.
- SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship
- ethnic differences
- ethnic penalties
- ethnic strategies
- South Asians UK