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A Test of Sincerity: How Black and Latino Service Workers Make Decisions about Making Referrals


The author draws from in-depth interviews with thirty-nine black and Latino custodial and food service workers at the University of California, Berkeley, to determine how workers make decisions about making job referrals. Interviews were revelatory. Drawing from widely available and institutionalized scripts about what makes a good worker, jobholders assessed jobseekers’ orientation toward work as well as what effect this orientation might have on their own reputations on the job to determine whom to help and how much to do so. Because of ethno-racial differences in how unemployment was interpreted, Latinos were more likely than their black counterparts to help and to do so proactively. These findings suggest that theories of social capital mobilization must take into consideration individuals’ access to and deployment of cultural resources to fully understand the circumstances under which actors are mobilized for instrumental action.

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