The Ethnic Penalty? The Life Course Experiences of Ethnic Minorities in Global Contexts

This decade and a half long project consists of a series of global studies that investigate ethnic minorities’ life course experiences, from education to the labour market. It also looks at the interactive role micro/macro-level factors, and public policies, play in this process.

The theoretical setup of the project is established in the monograph, The Ethnic Penalty: Immigration, Education and the Labour Market [public talk: podcast and powerpoint]. Drawing on the case of Toronto, Canada, it analyzes the ‘ethnic penalty’ that emerges when looking at the relationship between educational attainment and labour market outcomes of ethnic minority members.

While intuitively, overt discrimination (e.g. physical appearance, linguistical abilities) and first generation migrant status are often cited as prevailing reasons to explain the ‘ethnic penalty’, the project examines the utility of other explanatory factors such as an individual’s non-cognitive skills and social network, a firm’s working culture, and a community’s social trust.

How the 'ethnic penalty' manifests in urban China is of further analytical interest, and is explored in journal articles published in Comparative Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies [public talk: powerpoint], Eurasian Geography and Economics, European Journal of Development Research, International Labour Review – with one article looking at the job search, hiring and promotion process [translations: French and Spanish], and another article looking at the wages of 'outsider ethnic minorities' (e.g. Uyghurs and Tibetans) [translations: French and Spanish] – and the Journal of Contemporary China.

The project also looks at the philosophical and empirical outcomes of ethnic minority management in a range of traditional and 'newer' multi-ethnic jurisdictions (e.g. Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Taiwan and UK). The findings have been published in the edited book, Managing Ethnic Diversity: Meanings and Practices from an International Perspective [public talk: video and podcast].

In addition, the project considers the public policy implications of the broader research findings. For instance, it looks at the ‘People Swap’ policy in Australia [audio paper: video and podcast] [interview: video], steps to improve Chinese professionals’ labour market outcomes in Australia; and, whether Canada is shaping a new model to manage the inflow of refugees [public talk: video and podcast] [interview: video].

The project has attracted several research prizes, including: the National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan’s Established Diversity, and Emerging Diversity Scholar Awards; the Society for the Study of Social Problems’ Poverty, Class and Inequality Division Article Award; and, the European Association of Development Research and Training Institute (EADI) Research Prize for Development Studies Award.

Finally, to raise awareness about the research findings and implications, I have delivered numerous lectures, seminars and policy speeches at leading global academic, government and think tank institutions, and interacted with a variety of notable international media outlets on live television (sample e.g. CBC Television's “The National”, CCTV America's “The Heat” and Global Television's “Morning News”), live radio (sample e.g. CBC Radio “Radio Active” and SBS Australia “World News”) and print (sample e.g. The Economist: example one [audio version] and example two [audio version]). Further, the research project has inspired a well-received BBC UK documentary looking at the labour market experiences of young visible ethnic minorities; a short animated documentary looking at why anti-racist social movements seldom create systemic changes; and, a short documentary film looking at similarities between the ethnic minority and gender wage gaps.