The most fruitful model sees occupational composition as the result of a dual-queueing process: labor queues order groups of workers in terms of their attractiveness to employers, and job queues rank jobs in terms of their attractiveness to workers (Kindle Locations 426-428).
In whatever field or industry examined, the gender or racial composition of the individuals composing it are a result of labor queues. Everyone involved in the field ranks potential jobs. Let’s take television production.
Anyone with an idea for a show must look at potential channels that will air it. Some channels, like HBO, will rank high on everyone’s list. There is only so much programming that HBO can afford and that they need to comprise their schedule. Thus, there are more people who want their shows on HBO than it needs. HBO can be picky and choose only the best shows that are pitched. The individuals who are rejected by HBO must pitch their shows to another channel that ranked lower (less desirable) on their list of potential channels. The important point about job queues is that they result from the perceptions of potential employees (or show creators) concerning the status of a job (or channel). Everyone perceives Harvard as one of the best colleges in the U.S. Most people will not attempt sending in an application because the chances of being accepted are so slim. Harvard still has more applications than it could possibly admit, and this surplus in applications allows it to be choosy.
Labor queues are different in that they reflect the perception by employers, organizations, television channels or even colleges of applicants. Back to the television example, HBO has certain criteria that will make it more or less likely to greenlight a show. Does the show creator have experience creating a show? Have they worked in film? Are they well known? What genre would the show be? Would it mesh well with other shows in the schedule? All of these questions determine whether HBO will even hear the pitch.
Harvard likely has a GPA that all applicants should meet because Harvard has decided that this GPA is indicative of college success. This GPA will drop lower and lower as the prestige of the school drops. All applicants to Harvard below that GPA are likely dismissed from the very beginning unless they have some redeeming attribute that Harvard weighs more than high school performance. Such attributes are being related to an alumnus or being the son or daughter of a U.S. senator. All the applicants who barely meet the GPA requirement are placed at the back of the queue and are the least desirable from Harvard’s perspective. The least desirable to Harvard will likely be seen as very desirable at their state university.
The final composition of the labor market, television show creators, or college enrollment is the result of the interaction between perceptions of attributes. Queues result when the perceptions do not mesh. Let’s say I have a 2.0 GPA and perceive Harvard as a perfect fit for me. Harvard receives my application, and they perceive me as someone who is not disciplined nor dedicated to my performance in school. I may have worked very very hard for that 2.0 with a very structured study schedule. It won’t matter to Harvard because they don’t see a 2.0 applicant as having a high probability of success if enrolled. They also consider a 2.0 as academically inferior. Accepting my application would reflect poorly on Harvard and “water down” the high concentration of 4.0 students. This “watering down” would then be perceived by society and would be reflected in less qualified applicants perceiving Harvard as a possibility and applying. It would also be reflected in fewer 4.0 applicants wanting to go to Harvard. Harvard is able to maintain its status because it receives many more applications than it can admit, and these applicants are usually pretty well qualified.