Recovering the missing middle: A mesocomparative analysis of within-group inequality, 1970–2011

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This study assesses the causes of within-group inequality, or the inequality occurring among workers and households otherwise similar on observed characteristics. The author situates his research in a longitudinal analysis of local labor markets to determine the heterogeneous set of causes of within-group inequality. A data set is constructed locating within- and between-group portions of male wage, female wage, and household income inequality from nine waves of the integrated public use microdata series from the U.S. census in 722 temporally stable geographical units that cover the entire contiguous United States. Results from heteroscedastic and multilevel repeated-measures regression models reveal that within-group inequality follows economic development along a U-shaped pattern and that the well-established curvilinear relationship between development and inequality occurs specifically through the within-group portion of wages and incomes. Other factors—including sector change, occupational task concentration, educational expansion, urbanization, and deinstitutionalization— contribute to explain the association between within-group inequality and economic development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1064-1116
Number of pages53
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by a National Science Foundation dissertation improvement grant (no. 1519186). Direct correspondence to Tom VanHeuvelen, Department of Sociology, 3092 Lincoln Hall, 702 South Wright Street, Urbana, Illinois 61801. E-mail:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Recovering the missing middle: A mesocomparative analysis of within-group inequality, 1970–2011'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this