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THE (UN)INTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF BILINGUAL EMPLOYMENT POLICIES: Ethnoraciality and Labor Market Segmentation in Alameda County, CA

  • Abigail A. Sewell (a1)

Recent immigration and migration patterns have altered the ethnoracial composition of Alameda County, California. Sociopolitical leaders have struggled to adjust to these changes. In an effort to facilitate limited English speakers’ access to critical municipal services, Oakland—the largest municipal in Alameda County—passed an Equal Access to Services Ordinance on May 8, 2001, which is a groundbreaking language access legislation for the City of Oakland’s public administration. Using data from the 2000 Census and the 2005–2011 American Community Survey, this study examines the impact of bilingual employment policies on the ethnoracial segmentation of Alameda County workers. Logistic regression reveals that bilingual employment policies have reorganized both targeted (i.e., public contact) and non-targeted occupations within the local government public administration sector. Specifically, Spanish/Chinese bilingual speakers made gains in the public administration sector (the intended effects), while Black monolingual English speakers experienced losses (the unintended effects). The representation of Black monolingual English speakers in public contact jobs within the local government public administration sector declined by as much as 18 percentage points after the implementation of the nation’s first municipal-level bilingual employment policy. The impact of bilingual employment policies on the East Bay’s Black/Brown relations and African American’s hold on low-skilled jobs in service industries is examined.

Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Dr. Abigail A. Sewell, Emory University, Department of Sociology, 204 Tarbutton Hall, 1555 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322. E-mail:
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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
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