The manner in which social categories combine to produce inequality lies at the heart of scholarship on social stratification. Yet, knowledge about the causal effects of multi-category membership remains limited. Addressing key challenges in this area, this article advances a “muted congruence” theoretical perspective, arguing that when individuals evaluate others that occupy multiple social positions about which stereotypes are highly congruent – for example, being black and being unemployed – the additional category membership will have limited influence over the ultimate evaluation. Pedulla tests this argument using evidence from three studies examining how race and unemployment jointly shape workers’ employment opportunities. First, he analyzes data from a field experiment, submitting fictitious applications to real job openings, to examine how these categories shape actual hiring decisions. Second, he presents evidence from a survey experiment addressing how overlapping stereotypes about these social groups drive applicant evaluations. Finally, he explores whether the experimental findings are consistent with evidence from a national survey of job seekers. Together, the three studies support the “muted congruence” theoretical argument. While racial discrimination is prominent, the effects of unemployment are less severe for African Americans than whites. He concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for understanding the aggregation of social categories in the production of inequality.

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