Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Stephanie A. Bohon

Committee Members

Paul Gellert, Harry F. Dahms, and Ronald V. Kalafsky


Ethnic niches are overrepresentations of an ethnic group in an occupation or industry. Ethnic niches occur as a mechanism for coping with discrimination in the larger labor market. Studies on ethnic niches have typically focused on single cities (such as Los Angeles or New York), but they have failed to provide a larger picture of ethnic niches in the United States. Hence, researchers know much about niches in a few places but very little about the state of ethnic niches across the United States. Additionally, researchers know a great deal more about the niche behavior of some groups (notably Cubans and Chinese) than others. Also, researchers have rarely examined changes in ethnic niches over time. In this study, I create a comprehensive snapshot of US ethnic niches from 2005 to 2010. Utilizing data from the American Community Survey, I analyze eight ethnic groups (Asian Indians, Chinese, Cubans, Filipinos, Koreans, Japanese, Mexicans, and Vietnamese) in the fifty largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States across six years. From this, I create a descriptive picture of which ethnic groups control what ethnic niches, where they are located, and how they have changed over the last half of the 2000-2010 decade. I examine which groups, if any, are concentrated in specialized niches and why. I examine which US cities offer the most niche options for ethnic groups. I also examine in detail those niches that appear to be protected from members of other ethnic groups and discuss the reasons that some niches are protected. Finally, I examine the resiliency of niches, in general, and under conditions of extreme shock. Toward this end, I present an in-depth study of the Chinese-dominated garment industry in San Francisco before and after the Great Recession. I also study Mexican worker niches in New Orleans that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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