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Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs

Deirdre A. Royster
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 242
  • Book Info
    Race and the Invisible Hand
    Book Description:

    From the time of Booker T. Washington to today, and William Julius Wilson, the advice dispensed to young black men has invariably been, "Get a trade." Deirdre Royster has put this folk wisdom to an empirical test—and, in Race and the Invisible Hand, exposes the subtleties and discrepancies of a workplace that favors the white job-seeker over the black. At the heart of this study is the question: Is there something about young black men that makes them less desirable as workers than their white peers? And if not, then why do black men trail white men in earnings and employment rates? Royster seeks an answer in the experiences of 25 black and 25 white men who graduated from the same vocational school and sought jobs in the same blue-collar labor market in the early 1990s. After seriously examining the educational performances, work ethics, and values of the black men for unique deficiencies, her study reveals the greatest difference between young black and white men—access to the kinds of contacts that really help in the job search and entry process.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93737-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Stephen Steinberg

    For generations, even centuries, the advice dispensed to young black males has been, “Get a trade.” This nugget of folk wisdom has also dominated scholarly discourse on race from Booker T. Washington to William Julius Wilson. In 1881, Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute, which provided instruction in such trades as carpentry, farming, and mechanics. A century later, Wilson traced the problems of the black lower class to a deficit of education and skills that, he assumed, accounted the success of the black middle class. Between Washington and Wilson scores of social scientists, working with massive databases, have argued black-white differentials...

    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Black researchers rarely, if ever, get to study white working-class people close and personal, revealing their economic hopes, racial fears, and politically incorrect observations about the world. It simply isn’t done. While white and black (as well as other) researchers regularly study the workings of poor and working-class communities of color, who to have become accustomed to being studied, typically only white researchers have been able to gain access to white poor and working-class enclaves. But if you want to understand how similar working-class blacks and whites assess and pursue opportunities, it is important to have to-face conversations with both...

  7. TWO “Invisible” and Visible Hands Racial Disparity in the Labor Market
    (pp. 16-36)

    Economists often speak of the problems of supply and demand when explaining the labor market difficulties of minorities and youth.¹ They explain that some workers experience unemployment when the demand certain types of work(ers) goes down because of economic restructuring and cyclical downswings. This sort of cyclical unemployment is thought to last only as long as it takes such workers to find jobs in the growing sectors of the economy. Conversely, when the demand for certain types of work(ers) is high, but employers have difficulty finding an adequate supply of appropriate workers, unemployment and unfilled jobs the economy are said...

  8. THREE From School to Work . . . in Black and White A Case Study
    (pp. 37-59)

    Occasionally scholars and policy makers come together to evaluate existing research and thinking on a compelling social problem. As youth unemployment (especially young black men’s unemployment) was and is seen as an extremely compelling problem, several research teams and consortiums produced monographs in the 1980s and 1990s that described the problem in detail and evaluated much of the available research.¹ In their summaries, most of the reports pointed to gaps in existing research that made it difficult to determine what specific factors led to poor outcomes for black males. A number of the reports suggested that future research focus on...

  9. FOUR Getting a Job, Not Getting a Job Employment Divergence Begins
    (pp. 60-81)

    If our society was colorblind—and groups such as African Americans not disadvantaged as a result of racial preferences favoring whites—then young men like those I studied would experience the labor market quite similarly. That is, race would not help us to predict who did or not so well in the labor market. This is not necessarily to say that young white men and young black men would have the same job outcomes, although having no differences would be very strong evidence indeed for a colorblind society. Rather, the possibility of a colorblind society rests on a more modest...

  10. FIVE Evaluating Market Explanations The Declining Significance of Race and Racial Deficits Approaches
    (pp. 82-103)

    The data in Chapter 4 indicate major racial differences in early employment outcomes, but either of two factors could mitigate our concerns about the discriminatory implications of those differences: (1) things are but getting better—these findings indicate progress or (2) these unequal outcomes among Glendale graduates are justified because ofhiddendifferences in school performance, motivation, and character—characteristics on the basis of which employers have the right to make decisions—so unequal outcomes do not indicate unfair discrimination. These positions hearken back to the two types of market explanations I discussed in Chapter 2; one is William Julius...

  11. SIX Embedded Transitions School Ties and the Unanticipated Significance of Race
    (pp. 104-143)

    In the post–Civil Rights era, schools have come to be seen as institutions that are capable of and committed to endowing dedicated students, irrespective of race, with skills and experiences that enable all to compete fairly for the rewards of the greater society. In addition to their preparatory role, schools are also expected to contribute to allocation—specifically, selecting and sorting young people towards appropriate post-schooling opportunities, again irrespective of race. If either preparatory or the allocational functions are subverted in the interests of a dominant racial group, then the schools’ function as an equalizing institution is undermined from...

  12. SEVEN Networks of Inclusion, Networks of Exclusion The Production and Maintenance of Segregated Opportunity Structures
    (pp. 144-178)

    Young men, if they are lucky, navigate the passage from school to work buoyed and guided by supportive institutions and individuals. In Chapter 6, we saw that black Glendale men mainly relied upon formal placement mechanisms and the encouraging words of some of their white male teachers, while white students were able to count on material assistance from these same teachers, to the point where they scarcely needed formal job placement assistance. These in-school differences accentuated conditions outside of school. In the mono-racial homes and middle-class communities—white men were surrounded by and included within networks of gainfully employed older...

  13. EIGHT White Privilege and Black Accommodation Where Past and Contemporary Discrimination Converge
    (pp. 179-192)

    One narrative, the achievement ideology, asserts that formal training, demonstrated ability, and appropriate personal traits will assure employment access and career mobility. The second narrative, the contacts ideology, emphasizes personal ties and affiliations as a mechanism for employment referrals, access, and mobility. As Tilly argues, the achievement ideology has persistently dominated American understanding of occupational success, even though everyone, it seems, is willing to admit “who you know” is at least as important as “what you know” in gaining access to opportunities in American society. All of the men in this for example, said that contacts were very important in...

    (pp. 193-194)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 195-204)
    (pp. 205-216)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 217-226)