Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why Blue-Collar Blacks Help Less

  • Author(s): Smith, Sandra Susan
  • Young, Kara Alexis
  • et al.
Abstract

Why are blue-collar blacks less likely to help jobseekers than jobholders from other ethnoracial groups or even than more affluent blacks? Drawing from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 97 black and Latino workers at one large, public sector employer, we find that blue-collar black workers both helped less proactively and rejected more requests for assistance than did blue-collar Latino and white-collar black workers. We attribute blue-collar blacks’ more passive engagement to their stronger conviction, born from personal experience, that providing help was too risky and, more often than not, a waste of time. These experiences contributed to their belief that job-finding hardships were less the result of opportunity deficits than deficits in work ethic, a position they then deployed to justify their reluctance to help in the future. We end with a discussion about how prior helping experiences shape beliefs about inequality and inform jobholders’ willingness to help in the future, often to the detriment of disadvantaged black jobseekers.

Main Content
Current View