Understanding and Addressing Racial Occupational Segregation in the Restaurant and Food Retail Industries

UC Davis
Chris Benner

Workers of color in the restaurant and retail food industries face significant barriers in obtaining the livable wage jobs that do exist in the
industry, and are instead concentrated in lower-paying positions and industry segments.  Research conducted to date has indicated that racial segregation exists, but has not fully explained how racial segregation occurs, or exactly what interventions would be most effective to eliminate racial segregation. Research is needed to fully understand what happens when employers seek to desegregate but do not succeed, and what combination of penalties, incentives, consumer engagement models and worker training programs could result in workers of color being able to advance to livable wage positions. This study uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand the factors contributing to racial segregation in the retail food and restaurant sectors in California, to analyze the barriers that prevent workers of color from advancing to livable wage jobs, and prevent employers from hiring workers of color in livable wage jobs in these sectors.  Working closely with the Restaurant Opportunities Center, the UFCW Western States Council and the Food Chain Workers Alliance, this study also investigates policy and organizing solutions that can result from this deeper understanding of the mechanisms of segregation in these industries.


Photo attribution: Wisconsin Jobs Nowused under CC BY / Cropped from original