This chapter surveys sociological approaches to the study of job authority, including theoretical foundations, measurement, and emergence as an important dimension of social inequality. The focus here is mainly on studies of race and gender differences in the determinants of authority and the consequences of race and gender differences in authority for income. Despite significant advancements in the overall socioeconomic status of minorities and working women, race and gender remain important impediments to their attainment of authority. This pattern, which is consistent and robust in state-level, national, cross-national, and cross-temporal studies, is sustained net of an incumbent's human capital investments and structural location within and between several economic units. Following a review of the predominant explanations for gender and racial disparities in job authority is the conclusion that the most promising explanations for persistent racial and gender disparities in authority concern the racial and gender demography of the workplace and the tendency on the part of authority elites to reproduce themselves through both exclusionary and inclusionary processes. Suggestions for future research include additional delineation of these processes based on samples of multiple racial/ethnic groups of men and women and studies that synthesize quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding the effects of employer and employee attitudes/preferences and practices on the authority attainment process.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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