Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Campbell, Mary E

First Committee Member

Lovaglia, Michael J

Second Committee Member

Glanville, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Noonan, Mary

Fourth Committee Member

Portman, Tarrell


The problem of the black-white gross earnings gap is near its largest amongst lawyers; blacks earn a significantly lower income than whites (Dinovitzer et al. 2004; Grodsky and Pager 2001). There is also a white advantage in overall job satisfaction amongst lawyers (Payne-Pikus et al. 2010; Dau-Schmidt and Mukhopadhaya 1999). This study examines how social capital contributes to racial differences in these two aspects of overall job success. Social capital theories hypothesize that more social capital leads to increased job status attainment (Lin et al. 1981; Lin 2001). Blacks receive fewer and lower paying jobs than whites, perhaps in part because of a lack of social capital in their lower status and segregated social networks (Braddock and McPartland 1987; Elliot 1999; although see Mouw (2003) for a challenge which showed little to no effect of the use of contacts on earnings). Similarly, Ducharme and Martin (2000) found that social relationships with co-workers increase overall job satisfaction.

This project specifically examines social capital in the attorney job market, because this is a specific job market in which there are strong theoretical reasons to expect social capital to affect wages and job satisfaction. Using Portes' (1998) definition of social capital, the ability to secure benefits from one's social networks, I distinguish between three major social networks (professional, non-professional, and kinship), and then derive hypotheses about their effect on earnings and job satisfaction. The main hypothesis is that black and white differences in professional and non-professional networks account for part of the earnings and job satisfaction inequality between blacks and whites. The study also develops competing hypotheses to test the effect of kinship networks on job satisfaction. This study takes a mixed methods approach. Nationally representative longitudinal data from the After the Juris Doctorate Survey (AJD) test the hypotheses to see if there is an effect of social capital on earnings and satisfaction. Qualitative interviews seek to further investigate these relationships and look for emerging themes for racial differences in earnings and job satisfaction. The interviews take place with nine black and white lawyers in Chicago. The survey results reveal the significance of professional social capital networks in obtaining a higher salary among private firm attorneys. The effects of social capital do not vary across race. However, there are some black-white differences in the types of social capital used. The interview results reveal the significance of social capital in acquiring clients in small private firms, and of mentor-protégé relationships. Concluding remarks discuss the significance of professional and non-professional social capital in and beyond the legal profession, explanations for the higher levels of social capital in whites, and suggestions for ways to decrease these racial social capital disparities.


Race, Social Capital


ix, 142 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 134-142).


Copyright 2013 Kevin Pinkston

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Sociology Commons