Barbara F. Reskin

University of Washington


Primary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type: Emeritus (elected 2006)

Research Interests

My research has focused on sex and racial inequality in the workplace during the four decades since federal policies banned employment discrimination and job segregation. Sex and race segregation across occupations, firms, and jobs, which exposes women and men of different races to more or less rewarding lines of work, has declined very slowly. My attempts to understand the persistence of sex segregation has led me to social psychological research on the vulnerability of job assignments and promotion decisions to automatic cognitive errors (stereotypes and ingroup preferences). Because these errors are most likely when decision making processes are subjective and decision makers enjoy considerable discretion, I study employment structures and practices that permit or constrain the biasing effects of cognitive errors on job assignments. Recognizing the importance of organizational structures has led me to expand my research to (1) highlight the more general importance of identifying the mechanisms that produce varying levels of inequality, and (2) simultaneously examine a variety of categorical distinctions (e.g., race, ethnicity) that trigger automatic biases. I am developing analytic techniques that are useful for assessing differential outcomes for a large number of categorical groups. In addition, I have been modeling the links between categorical inequality across spheres (e.g., neighborhood residence, education, incarceration, employment) to investigate whether this system of inequality attenuates the impact of policy interventions in single spheres. I am also currently studying the ramifications of the growth of subprime credit markets for class and race inequality.

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