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Black Wealth/ White Wealth and The Social Stratification Theory

Powerful Essays
Through an analysis of private equity in America, the book Black Wealth/White Wealth published in 1997 by Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro depicts the often-unseen differences in accumulated wealth between whites and blacks. Through their research, Oliver and Shapiro found that the racial disparity of accumulated wealth explains why a large majority of blacks have been unable to rise from the bottom of the social structure. Looking back 52 years ago, we find that Oliver and Shapiro’s findings are given further legitimacy when Melvin Tumin’s critique of Kingsley-Davis and Wilbert Moore’s theory on social stratification is examined.

To find the accumulated wealth disparity between whites and blacks Oliver and Shapiro first had to start with an analytical distinction between wealth and income. After all, simply glancing at Forbes Magazine’s list of top income earners for 2011 appears to indicate that the once prominent socioeconomic disparity among whites and blacks has vanished. Over the past decade, famous black individuals such as Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson have all topped the charts as the highest income earners in America. At some points in recent history, blacks have even accounted for half of the top ten highest earners, an outstanding feat considering blacks account for only about 13% of the USA population. This picture painted by the list of highest income earners however, only tells half the story. Contrary to Forbes’ highest income list is Forbes’ profile of the 400 wealthiest Americans. This list contains few if any African Americans. Therefore, to explain this disparity a clear distinction had to be made between what is wealth and what is income.

Oliver and Shapiro define income...

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...he wealthy, particularly in the form of an income tax and higher inheritance tax and using the subsequent proceeds to provide more welfare programs to the poor. According to Tumin, the chances of obtaining a higher rewarding job could be equalized if the costs of training individuals could be absorbed by the society at large. This would equate to the government providing free entrance to all finishing schools and universities.

Works Cited

Black Wealth/White Wealth. 2011. The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Ed. David B. Grusky and Szonja Szelenyi. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011. 296-303. Print.

Tumin, Melvin M. "Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis." American Sociological Review 18.4 (1953): 387-94. JSTOR. Web. 30 Sept. 2011. .
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