American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

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Harvard University Press, 1993 - Social Science - 292 pages
This powerful and disturbing book clearly links persistent poverty among blacks in the United States to the unparalleled degree of deliberate segregation they experience in American cities. American Apartheid shows how the black ghetto was created by whites during the first half of the twentieth century in order to isolate growing urban black populations. It goes on to show that, despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968, segregation is perpetuated today through an interlocking set of individual actions, institutional practices, and governmental policies. In some urban areas the degree of black segregation is so intense and occurs in so many dimensions simultaneously that it amounts to “hypersegregation.” Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton demonstrate that this systematic segregation of African Americans leads inexorably to the creation of underclass communities during periods of economic downturn. Under conditions of extreme segregation, any increase in the overall rate of black poverty yields a marked increase in the geographic concentration of indigence and the deterioration of social and economic conditions in black communities. As ghetto residents adapt to this increasingly harsh environment under a climate of racial isolation, they evolve attitudes, behaviors, and practices that further marginalize their neighborhoods and undermine their chances of success in mainstream American society. This book is a sober challenge to those who argue that race is of declining significance in the United States today.

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"American Apartheid" is a well-written and well-researched book. The authors researched the many factors that forced different groups of people into their ghettos -- all except one very important reason. People generally prefer to live with people like themselves. Montgomery County in Maryland includes the largest middle class African American neighborhoods in the country. These areas are populated largely by well paid federal government workers who can afford to live in any of the middle class enclaves that ring DC. A poll was taken by the Washington Post about 15 years ago, asking the respondents their reasons for living in these seemingly apartheid neighborhoods. The main reason cited was simply that people feel more comfortable living with other people just like them.
The authors should have included a chapter investigating this phenomenon.

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Very insightful. It looked behind the visible to document an aspect of social life in America that many people are afraid to know about their society. It is not the most palatable stuff you'll want to read about, but you must if you want to understand modern race relations in the USA.


The Missing Link
The Construction of the Ghetto
The Persistence of the Ghetto
The Continuing Causes of Segregation
The Creation of Underclass Communities 775
The Perpetuation of the Underclass
The Failure of Public Policy 756
The Future of the Ghetto

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About the author (1993)

Douglas S. Massey is Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, with a joint appointment in the Woodrow Wilson School.

Nancy A. Denton is Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Albany.

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