The concept of vacancy chains, originally developed in Harrison White’s pioneering analysis of organizational mobility processes, has been extended to phenomena as diverse as national labor and housing markets, the historical development of professions, gender and ethnic group discrimination in job and housing markets, organizational demography, and the mobility of hermit crabs to empty snail shells. In all populations in which they occur—whether human or animal—vacancy chains appear to organize a variety of social processes in nearly identical ways. This chapter provides a broad and relatively nonmathematical review of the vacancy chain literature covering basic definitions and formulations, main theoretical ideas and assumptions, comparisons of social processes in different vacancy chain systems, and several conceptual and methodological extensions to vacancy chain analysis. The review concludes by discussing a number of outstanding problems, present limitations, and promising areas for future research using the vacancy chain approach to mobility.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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