Employer decision making

Lauren A. Rivera*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

38 Scopus citations


The decisions employers make are of critical importance to sociological understandings of labor market stratification. While contemporary research documents employment outcomes with ever-growing precision, far less work examines how employers actually make decisions. In this article, I review research on the process of employer decision making, focusing on how employers evaluate, compare, and select workers in personnel decisions. I begin by summarizing the most prevalent theories of employer decision making in sociology, grouping them into competency-based, status-based, and social closure-based approaches. A common thread underlying much of this work is the assumption that employers are utility maximizers who base decisions on systematic, even if flawed, cognitive calculations of worker skill and workforce productivity. I then turn to recent research from sociology and beyond that challenges this notion and highlights the importance of understanding how employers themselves-their emotions, identities, and environments-affect decisions. I conclude by suggesting directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Sociology
PublisherAnnual Reviews Inc
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Jul 30 2020

Publication series

NameAnnual Review of Sociology
ISSN (Print)0360-0572


  • decision making
  • employment
  • evaluation
  • hiring
  • inequality
  • labor markets
  • performance reviews
  • promotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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