The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy

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University of Chicago Press, 1990 - Social Science - 254 pages
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Background information is provided on social changes in inner city neighborhoods, especially concerning class structure. Use of the controversial term "underclass" is also explained as well as the declining influence of the liberal perspective on the ghetto underclass and how this decline might be reversed. The problems of violent crime, out-of-wedlock births, female-headed families, and welfare dependency are discussed in detail. The author argues that increases in the rates of social dislocation cannot be accounted for simply on the basis of racism. Rather, these problems are related to a complex set of factors such as changes in the urban economy that result in extraordinary rates of black unemployment and the class transformation of the inner city. The popular welfare state explanations of the rise of social dislocation among the ghetto underclass are examined, particularly the association between joblessness and the rates of female-headed households. National and regional data are provided on the "marriageable male pool" and female-headed households; the relationship between structural changes in regional economies and these two variables is also examined. The book concludes with an analysis of the shortcomings of race-specific policies, including affirmative action, in addressing the problems of the urban underclass and the failure of the race relations and War on Poverty visions to relate minority poverty directly to the broader problems of economic organization. It recommends a comprehensive public policy agenda to improve the life chances of truly disadvantaged groups such as the ghetto underclass.

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The truly disadvantaged: the inner city, the underclass, and public policy

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This eminent sociologist has written a complex and provocative analysis of black inner-city poverty. Eschewing both liberal and conservative orthodoxies, Wilson argues that the substantial increase in ... Read full review

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About the author (1990)

William Julius Wilson, an American sociologist, received his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1966 and teaches at the University of Chicago. His scholarly work, written from both historical and sociological perspectives, has concentrated on the condition of African Americans living in inner cities, especially the underclass. He stresses urban divisions separating the middle class from the poor.

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