When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

Overview

Wilson, one of our foremost authorities on race and poverty, challenges decades of liberal and conservative pieties to look squarely at the devastating effects that joblessness has had on our urban ghettos. Marshaling a vast array of data and the personal stories of hundreds of men and women, Wilson persuasively argues that problems endemic to America's inner cities—from fatherless households to drugs and violent crime—stem directly from the disappearance of blue-collar jobs in the wake of a globalized economy. ...

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When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

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Overview

Wilson, one of our foremost authorities on race and poverty, challenges decades of liberal and conservative pieties to look squarely at the devastating effects that joblessness has had on our urban ghettos. Marshaling a vast array of data and the personal stories of hundreds of men and women, Wilson persuasively argues that problems endemic to America's inner cities—from fatherless households to drugs and violent crime—stem directly from the disappearance of blue-collar jobs in the wake of a globalized economy. Wilson's achievement is to portray this crisis as one that affects all Americans, and to propose solutions whose benefits would be felt across our society. At a time when welfare is ending and our country's racial dialectic is more strained than ever, When Work Disappears is a sane, courageous, and desperately important work.

"Wilson is the keenest liberal analyst of the most perplexing of all American problems...[This book is] more ambitious and more accessible than anything he has done before."
—The New Yorker

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Record levels of unemployment and disappearing jobs in inner-city neighborhoods are the root cause of poverty and social distress among African Americans, contends Wilson, an eminent University of Chicago sociology professor. A galvanizing blueprint for concerned citizens and policy makers, his scholarly study focuses on Chicago's inner-city poor, using three surveys he conducted between 1987 and 1993. Wilson (The Truly Disadvantaged) sees a direct link between growing joblessness and what he calls ghetto-related behavior and attitudesfatherless children born out of wedlock, drugs, crime, gang violence, hopelessnessbut unlike those who blame a "culture of poverty," he emphasizes that structural changes can effect a turnaround. His plan to reverse declining employment and social inequality includes proposals for city-suburban collaboration, private-sector partnerships with public schools, national health insurance, and time limits on welfare for able-bodied recipients combined with guaranteed jobs in a public-works program modeled on the New Deal's Works Progress Administration. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A sharp rejoinder, presented with cool and pitiless logic, to conservative analysis of the largely black urban underclass. Harvard sociologist Wilson (The Truly Disadvantaged, not reviewed; The Declining Significance of Race, 1978) bases much of this work on a comprehensive survey he conducted while at the University of Chicago, where he taught for many years. The "new urban poverty" that Wilson describes consists of poor, segregated areas in which most adults either are unemployed or have opted out of the workforce completely. Joblessness has only worsened, even after civil-rights era gains. Yet, unlike such critics of the welfare state as Charles Murray and George Gilder, Wilson traces this urban devolution not simply to a "culture of poverty," but to a more complicated, interacting set of social, structural, cultural, and psychological factors. Underlying accelerated ghetto joblessness has been the US transition from a manufacturing to a service economy—a development that particularly devastated urban blacks, who often possess few of the skills (e.g., computer, oral, and verbal proficiency) needed in the new economy. Other factors worsening this plight (especially for black males) include the removal of jobs from cities to suburbs, the departure from inner cities of a black middle class that offered positive role models, and the rise of single-parent families. But, quoting from interviews with survey participants, Wilson notes that, like society at large, inner-city blacks desperately want to work. He concludes with policy recommendations that, while designed to alleviate inner-city conditions, are race-neutral enough to attract support from the white middle classas well. These recommendations include massive WPA-style jobs creation, expansion of the earned income-tax credit, city-suburban cooperation, and national performance standards in public schools. A sophisticated analysis of a seemingly intractable dilemma that more than justifies Wilson's recent inclusion among Time magazine's group of "America's 25 Most Influential People."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679724179
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 376,666
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Pt. I The New Urban Poverty
Ch. 1 From Institutional to Jobless Ghettos 3
Ch. 2 Societal Changes and Vulnerable Neighborhoods 25
Ch. 3 Ghetto-Related Behavior and the Structure of Opportunity 51
Ch. 4 The Fading Inner-City Family 87
Ch. 5 The Meaning and Significance of Race: Employers and Inner-City Workers 111
Pt. II The Social Policy Challenge
Ch. 6 The American Belief System Concerning Poverty and Welfare 149
Ch. 7 Racial Antagonisms and Race-Based Social Policy 183
Ch. 8 A Broader Vision: Social Policy Options in Cross-National Perspective 207
App. A Perspectives on Poverty Concentration 241
App. B Methodological Note on the Research at the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality 243
App. C Tables on Urban Poverty and Family Life Study Research 249
Notes 253
Bibliography 283
Index 309
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2010

    Great read

    I'm taking a Sociology course and this book was extremely helpful on what my group needed to research. Our final project hypothesis is that unemployment causes neighborhood destabilization. If you have a similar project that you're going to be working on for school I would highly recommend this book. It's also great for any discussion on unemployment and the kind of individualistic society we live in. It focuses a lot on the evils of blaming people instead of a broken system and putting to bed the myth of "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps." The last chapter had some really great insights and ideas about how to handle unemployment and what we can do to help the working class poor. Great read! Highly recommended for anyone doing any kind of research on unemployment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2003

    Wilson at his best!

    Wilson is not affraid to tell us what is wrong with our society, he also has a plan for fixing it. When Wilson speak Washington ought to listen.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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