When it comes to hearing about a job lead, race matters, according to a new academic study.

Research from Rice University and North Carolina State University finds that the racial composition of a labor market is a significant factor in whether workers find out about job leads.

"What we were interested in with this study was the likelihood of you, as a worker, hearing about jobs you didn't already have and then being able to pursue those," said Jim Elliott, an associate professor of sociology at Rice University. "So what we found was that the higher the percentage of white people in your occupational group locally, the more likely you were to hear about jobs that were out there and available to take."

"When you have a more minority dominated occupation, what happens is those job leads begin to dry up."

The study found that "race matters, and that race-related recruiting can adversely impact job opportunities for workers in minority-dominated occupations,'' according to Steve McDonald, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State. "Presumably this is due to a preference -- conscious or subconscious -- for white workers."

The professors believe their findings show that employers in white labor markets are more likely to use social networking sites and other informal contacts for recruiting new workers.

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"If you are in a minority dominated occupation, it's as if you get into a cul-de-sac where you no longer have the opportunity to have flows of job leads and job information," said Elliott.

"But if you are a minority and you are able to get into a more white dominated occupation, even as a minority by virtue of working in that occupation, you get more job leads coming down the information highway."

Elliott said the study examined 11 broad occupational segments in each of the 23 largest U.S. metro areas. These included executive and managerial; professional; technical; sales; administrative support; protective services; other services; construction and craft; production; transportation; laborers and farm workers.

The researchers found that which occupational segments are minority-dominated varies by metro area. For example, in Los Angeles, the service segment category is less than 50% white, but in Boston it's greater than 75% white.

"Our findings imply that receipt of unsolicited job leads will be significantly lower among service workers in L.A. than among similar service workers in Boston," Elliott explained. "In other words, what matters is not the race of the individual worker or the specific occupation in which she or he is employed. What matters is the racial composition of the local occupational segment in which she or he works."

The study's authors say more research is needed, but Elliott believes American businesses need to broaden out their recruiting efforts.

The researchers used data from 642 workers from the 23 largest cities in the U.S.