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Abstract

To better understand persistent race and gender inequality in the labor market, this article discusses the informal processes by which social connections provide individuals with access to information, influence, and status that help to further people’s careers. Because social networks are segregated by race and gender, access to these social capital resources tends to be greater for white men than for minorities and women. To illustrate this point, research on the invisible hand of social capital is presented. In short, high-level job openings are commonly filled with non-searchers – people who are not looking for new jobs – thanks to their receipt of unsolicited job leads. Recent studies find that this process operates more effectively for white men than for minorities and women, demonstrating how the invisible hand of social capital helps to perpetuate race and gender inequality. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings and directions for future research.