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Determinants of Early Labor Market Entry and Attainment: A Study of Labor Market Segmentation


Griffin, Larry J.; Kalleberg, Arne L.; & Alexander, Karl L. (1981). Determinants of Early Labor Market Entry and Attainment: A Study of Labor Market Segmentation. Sociology of Education, 54(3), 206-221.


The early career attainments of a large, national sample of non-college educated workers are considered from a dual labor market perspective. Our analysis considers both the kinds of workers selected initially into secondary sector employment and the consequences of being so situated for a variety of indicators of market success, including subsequent sector positioning, unemployment, occupational status, job tenure, on-the-job training and earnings. As would be expected from the dual market framework, we found that workers in the primary sector obtained greater earnings and career advancement than those in the secondary market. In contrast, however, we found considerable inter-sectoral mobility, few differences in the kinds of workers employed in the two sectors, and quite similar within-sector achievement processes during the first several years of employment. Hence, we find little indication that the primary and secondary segments, as measured here, are governed by fundamentally different market mechanisms or that they evidence distinctive achievement processes. Our analyses also indicate the importance of unemployment, in addition to markets, in structuring the early attainment experiences of workers. We suggest, then, that considerably more theoretical specification and research are required if the dual labor market perspective is to serve as a viable structural complement to individually-based models of socioeconomic inequality.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Sociology of Education


Griffin, Larry J.
Kalleberg, Arne L.
Alexander, Karl L.