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Race, Urban Poverty, and Public Policy

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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 s...

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...or-eliminating technology -- they are unlikely to be plausible policy alternatives in the current political and high-technology-oriented context. What all these analyses and policy recommendations do require is a universalistic strategy, backed by a broad-based multi-ethnic, multi-class coalition which cuts across ideological and political lines in order to address the problems of race and urban poverty at the dawn of the 21st century.

Works Cited

David Ellwood Poor Support

Herbert Gans The War Against the Poor: The Underclass and Antipoverty Policy


1 Wilson, 28.

2 Ibid, 75-8.

3 Ibid, 216-18.

4 Newman, 292-293.

5 Rieder, 79.

6 Ibid, 173.

7 These definitions of social organization are also found in Wilson, 20.

8 Anderson, 144-45.

9 Wilson, 62.

10 Ibid, 113.

11 Ellwood, 238.

12 Gans, 110-112.

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