More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City by William Julius Wilson
Reviewed by Dr. Alex Mikulich, Research Fellow
The demand that social science and public policy address both inner-city behavior and social structures is a key insight of William JuliusWilson’s scholarship. Too often, social scientific and policy debates create a dichotomy between culture—the beliefs, modes of decision-making, and meaning-making that pervade the inner city—and social structure— the ways larger institutions of the economy, polity, and education shape the life chances of groups and individuals. Wilson avoids this false dichotomy.
After the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a new politics of poverty converged with a new politics of race that eventually led to the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. That law constituted the culmination of a historic shift away from the New Deal politics of the previous 50 years, which featured national policy initiatives designed to protect citizens against the harshest economic and social structural forces beyond their control.