Racial glass ceiling
The glass ceiling and the labour-market segmentation of first-in-family Roma graduates in Hungary
Keywords:upward social mobility, first-in-family graduates, Roma first-generation professionals, glass ceiling, racial glass ceiling
According to the neoliberal mantra, anyone who is willing to work hard can get ahead in our society. In an era when belief in the myth of meritocracy has become widespread, greater social mobility would represent the promise of escape from rising social inequality. This paper challenges this myth and offers insight into the fallacy of individualized explanations of the role of merit in social ascension. Drawing on 103 interviews with first-in-family (FIF) minority Roma graduates in Hungary, and using the lens of intersectionality, it explores the hidden barriers to career advancement for those Roma professionals whose parents do not have a degree. The paper shows how the intersections of class and racialised minority status matter in relation to what career one has in the labour market. It illuminates why FIF Roma professionals can rarely enter elite occupations and why, career wise, they tend to concentrate in jobs dealing with Roma issues. It explores the effect of the dynamic interaction of structural hidden mechanisms and the Roma’s response/adaptation to them that contribute both to Roma professionals’ labour market segmentation and to the phenomenon of the glass ceiling. The paper calls these two characteristics of the labour market situation of the FIF Roma graduates the racial glass ceiling.
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