Race, Urban Poverty, And Public Policy

2561 words - 10 pages

The problems of race and urban poverty remain pressing challenges which the United States has yet to address. Changes in the global economy, technology, and race relations during the last 30 years have necessitated new and innovative analyses and policy responses. A common thread which weaves throughout many of the studies reviewed here is the dynamics of migration. In When Work Disappears, immigrants provide comparative data with which to highlight the problems of ghetto poverty affecting blacks. In No Shame in My Game, Puerto Rican and Dominican immigrants are part of the changing demographics in Harlem. In Canarsie, the possible migration of blacks into a working/middle-class neighborhood prompts conservative backlash from a traditionally liberal community. In Streetwise, the migration of yuppies as a result of gentrification, and the movement of nearby-ghetto blacks into these urban renewal sites also invoke fear of crime and neighborhood devaluation among the gentrifying community. Not only is migration a common thread, but the persistence of poverty, despite the current economic boom, is the cornerstone of all these works. Poverty, complicated by the dynamics of race in America, call for universalistic policy strategies, some of which are articulated in Poor Support and The War Against the Poor.

In When Work Disappears, William Julius Wilson builds upon many of the insights he introduced in The Truly Disadvantaged, such as the rampant joblessness, social isolation, and lack of marriageable males that characterized many urban ghetto neighborhoods. In the class discussion, Professor Wilson argues that it is necessary to disassociate unemployment with joblessness, as the former only measures those still seeking jobs while the latter encompasses those who may have dropped out of the labor market. Also, by focusing on neighborhood-level poverty, he highlights the conceptual distinction between jobless neighborhoods and poor, but working neighborhoods, which is the subject of Katherine Newman's work discussed below. One of the newer insights that Wilson introduces in this recent publication are the effects of globalization: free trade renders some industries vulnerable, such as the apparel industry where 40% are black workers, and in the new global economy, "education and training are considered more important than ever".1 Wilson also explores the cognitive impact, such as the undermining of self-efficacy, which is not simply a cultural effect, but a structural effect as well.2 In this book, Wilson goes into great detail illustrating, often in their own words, the attitudes, stereotypes and perceptions that employers -- white and black -- have toward the inner-city ghetto workforce, in particular the denigrated perception of black males. Lastly, Wilson's theoretical and conceptual arguments are buttressed by research data which allows him to do some comparative work, mostly related to Mexican immigrants, and provide...

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