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Erasing Class/(Re)Creating Ethnicity: Jobs, Politics, Accumulation and Identity in Kenya

Mwangi Githinji

The Review of Black Political Economy, 2015, vol. 42, issue 1, 87-110

Abstract: This paper empirically examines the relationship between employment, wages and ethnicity via a case study of Kenya. I challenge the pervasive view that ethnicity in Kenya specifically and Africa more generally is related to a primordial instinct and attempt to show empirically that ethnicity is used by politicians as a political strategy to maintain power. In the process of using ethnicity, class solidarity is explicitly down played by politicians as ethnicity is reified. In this paper I specifically examine whether jobs are being used by politicians as both reward and carrot to ensure ethnic allegiances. This is done by testing whether being a member of a dominant group (in terms of population and also politically) has an impact on the possibility of employment and the level of wages. I do this using data from the 1986 Labor Force Survey which due to timing uniquely allows me to connect ethnicity and income. I find that being in a politically dominant group improves one’s chances of obtaining a full time above median wage job. I show that participation in highly remunerated sectors is highly correlated with political power and a change of ethnicity of the president may change outcomes of the past presidents “kinsfolk” being recruited into the desired sectors. Being a member of a locally dominant group in terms of population as compared to a politically dominant national group has no effect on likelihood of employment in one of the premium categories. My findings support the view that in a highly centralized and unequal state ethnicity can be reproduced via preferential employment to members of an in-group thus diminishing class solidarity that one may expect to occur between workmates. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Keywords: Social Stratification; Discrimination; Ethnicity; Kenya; Inequality; Employment; JEL classification; Z13; N37; O15; P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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Working Paper: Erasing Class/ (re)Creating Ethnicity: Jobs, Politics, Accumulation and Identity in Kenya (2012) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1007/s12114-014-9191-0

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