Marginalized by race and place: A multilevel analysis of occupational sex segregation in post-apartheid South Africa

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Purpose: Given South Africa’s apartheid history, studies have primarily focused on racial discrimination in employment outcomes, with lesser attention paid to gender and context. The purpose of this paper is to fill an important gap by examining the combined effect of macro- and micro-level factors on occupational sex segregation in post-apartheid South Africa. Intersections by race are also explored. Design/methodology/approach – A multilevel multinomial logistic regression is used to examine the influence of various supply and demand variables on women’s placement in white- and blue-collar male-dominated occupations. Data from the 2001 Census and other published sources are used, with women nested in magisterial districts. Findings – Demand-side results indicate that service sector specialization augments differentiation by increasing women’s opportunities in both white-collar male- and female-dominated occupations. Contrary to expectations, urban residence does not influence women’s, particularly African women’s, placement in any male-type positions, although Whites (white-collar) and Coloureds (blue-collar) fare better. Supply side human capital models are supported in general with African women receiving higher returns from education relative to others, although theories of “maternal incompatibility” are partially disproved. Finally, among all racial groups, African women are least likely to be employed in any male-dominated occupations, highlighting their marginalization and sustained discrimination in the labour market. Practical implications – An analysis of women’s placement in white- and blue-collar male-dominated occupations by race provides practical information to design equitable work policies by gender and race. Social implications – Sex-typing of occupations has deleterious consequences such as lower security, wage differentials, and fewer prospects for promotion, that in turn increase labour market rigidity, reduce economic efficiency, and bar women from reaching their full potential. Originality/value – Very few empirical studies have examined occupational sex segregation (using detailed three-digit data) in developing countries, including South Africa. Methodologically, the paper uses multilevel techniques to correctly estimate ways in which context influences individual outcomes. Finally, it contributes to the literature on intersectionality by examining how gender and race sustain systems of inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-770
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
StatePublished - 7 Oct 2014


  • Blue- and white-collar
  • Human capital
  • Multilevel
  • Occupational sex segregation
  • Race
  • South Africa


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