Can Institutional Networks Mitigate Labor Market Disadvantages? Evidence from College Summer Job Searches


  • *Direct correspondence to Mary J. Fischer, 344 Mansfield Rd., Unit 2068, Storrs, CT 06269 〈〉. The author will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. Thanks to Julie Kmec, Michael Wallace, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on previous versions of this article.


Objective. This study examines whether the use of institutional (school-based) networks may help students from disadvantaged backgrounds secure summer employment opportunities that are on a par with those of their more advantaged classmates who may possess more resource-rich personal and familial networks.

Methods. The study draws on unique data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen to examine the strategies that a national representative sample of nearly 4,000 white, black, Asian, and Hispanic students on 28 campuses used to obtain summer employment and the characteristics of these summer jobs. Multinomial logistic regression techniques are applied to examine the types of contacts students used and jobs they found, while OLS regression is employed to examine the wages and occupational prestige of summer positions.

Results. The study reveals that students who obtained their summer jobs through institutional contacts had significantly higher earnings and held positions with higher occupational prestige than students using most other methods (controlling for race/ethnicity, prior work experience, and parental education). I also found that minority students are at least as likely as white students to draw on these institutional networks. In addition, there were no differences by SES, suggesting that this type of capital is both accessible and accessed by a wide range of students.

Conclusions. This study provides evidence that summer jobs obtained through institutional networks are more likely to be in desirable sectors, on average pay better, and have higher occupational prestige scores than jobs obtained by most other methods.