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Colors of Poverty, The

Colors of Poverty, The: Why Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist

Ann Chih Lin
David R. Harris
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  • Book Info
    Colors of Poverty, The
    Book Description:

    Given the increasing diversity of the nation—particularly with respect to its growing Hispanic and Asian populations—why does racial and ethnic difference so often lead to disadvantage? In The Colors of Poverty, a multidisciplinary group of experts provides a breakthrough analysis of the complex mechanisms that connect poverty and race.The Colors of Poverty reframes the debate over the causes of minority poverty by emphasizing the cumulative effects of disadvantage in perpetuating poverty across generations. The contributors consider a kaleidoscope of factors that contribute to widening racial gaps, including education, racial discrimination, social capital, immigration, and incarceration. Michèle Lamont and Mario Small grapple with the theoretical ambiguities of existing cultural explanations for poverty disparities. They argue that culture and structure are not competing explanations for poverty, but rather collaborate to produce disparities. Looking at how attitudes and beliefs exacerbate racial stratification, social psychologist Heather Bullock links the rise of inequality in the United States to an increase in public tolerance for disparity. She suggests that the American ethos of rugged individualism and meritocracy erodes support for antipoverty programs and reinforces the belief that people are responsible for their own poverty. Sociologists Darren Wheelock and Christopher Uggen focus on the collateral consequences of incarceration in exacerbating racial disparities and are the first to propose a link between legislation that blocks former drug felons from obtaining federal aid for higher education and the black/white educational attainment gap. Joe Soss and Sanford Schram argue that the increasingly decentralized and discretionary nature of state welfare programs allows for different treatment of racial groups, even when such policies are touted as “race-neutral.” They find that states with more blacks and Hispanics on welfare rolls are consistently more likely to impose lifetime limits, caps on benefits for mothers with children, and stricter sanctions. The Colors of Poverty is a comprehensive and evocative introduction to the dynamics of race and inequality. The research in this landmark volume moves scholarship on inequality beyond a simple black-white paradigm, beyond the search for a single cause of poverty, and beyond the promise of one “magic bullet” solution.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-724-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Why Is American Poverty Still Colored in the Twenty-First Century?
    (pp. 1-18)
    Ann Chih Lin and David R. Harris

    In the United States, one of every three African American children and one of every four Latino children lives in poverty. For white children, the number is one in seven (U.S. Census Bureau 2007). Substantial progress for racial minorities has occurred over the last forty years, and yet the life chances of the average black or Latino child are still very different from those of his average white or Asian classmate. Will more and better education close these gaps? Is a renewed commitment to personal responsibility necessary? Can government fix this problem—or will government make it worse?

    These questions...


    • Chapter 2 The Dynamics of Discrimination
      (pp. 21-51)
      Devah Pager

      In 1927, a New York clothing manufacturer advertised for help with a notice typical of that time period: “White Workers $24: Colored Workers $20” (Schiller 2004, 190; see also Darity and Mason 1998, table 1). At the time, ads like these were common, with the explicit understanding that whites were more highly valued and should be paid accordingly. Today, of course, such overt forms of discrimination have all but vanished. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, rendering previously common forms of unequal treatment illegal. With the shifting...

    • Chapter 3 Justifying Inequality: A Social Psychological Analysis of Beliefs About Poverty and the Poor
      (pp. 52-75)
      Heather E. Bullock

      A news story reports that 12.6 percent of the United States population was poor in 2004. No demographic information is provided. Who do you think the poor are?

      You watch a television program about low-income mothers trying to make ends meet. One of the mothers featured says that employers don’t want to hire her because of her Spanish accent. Who is responsible for her situation?

      While visiting the city, you give a homeless man a dollar. Your friend tells you that handouts only encourage laziness. Do you regret giving him money?

      When you were growing up you believed that with...

    • Chapter 4 How Culture Matters: Enriching Our Understanding of Poverty
      (pp. 76-102)
      Michèle Lamont and Mario Luis Small

      The termculturefigures prominently in the literature on poverty, race, and ethnicity, though rarely with much theoretical or empirical sophistication. Conceived rather vaguely as a group’s norms and values, as its attitudes toward work and family, or as its observed patterns of behavior,¹ culture has been discussed by many poverty experts without the depth or the precision that characterize their analyses of such matters as demographic trends, selection bias, or the impact of public policies on work and family structure. This lack of sophistication is reflected in many practices, such as the use ofcultureandraceinterchangeably, as...


    • Chapter 5 How Educational Inequality Develops
      (pp. 105-134)
      George Farkas

      Academic achievement—schooling completed and degrees attained, as well as the skills and capabilities associated with these credentials—is an important determinant of socioeconomic success. Few if any personal characteristics are more strongly and positively related to an individual’s later occupational attainment, employment, earnings, home ownership, health, and other measures of a successful life. In addition, as the United States’ and other national economies have evolved, technological innovation and globalization have advanced, and labor union strength has declined, the economic return to academic achievement has increased. Thus, for example, in inflation-adjusted, 1999 dollars, the average American male high school dropout...

    • Chapter 6 Poverty, Migration, and Health
      (pp. 135-169)
      David R. Williams and Selina A. Mohammed

      Living and working conditions are important determinants of health because they underscore differential exposure to health risks and resources. Accordingly, poverty and other indicators of socioeconomic status (SES) are important contexts that shape the distribution of health risks and resources. Moreover, SES intersects with race and ethnicity and immigration status and all interact additively and interactively to create cumulative exposure to health risks that contribute to variations in the distribution of illness in the United States. Accordingly, it is vital to include health status in policy initiatives that address poverty. Both researchers and policy makers need enhanced sensitivity to the...

    • Chapter 7 Can Social Capital Explain Persistent Racial Poverty Gaps?
      (pp. 170-198)
      Lincoln Quillian and Rozlyn Redd

      Social capital has recently become one of the most widely used concepts in sociology and social science. No fewer than four monographs (Lin 2001; Aberg and Sandberg 2003; Feld 2003; Halpern 2005), ten edited volumes, and 900 social science articles (Halpern 2005, figure 1.1) on social capital have been published since 2001. The term has been one of sociology’s most successful exports, finding its way into political science, economics, and anthropology. Broadly encompassing the personal relationships that aid in achieving goals, social capital is not a single explanation or variable, but rather points toward a variety of explanations of how...


    • Chapter 8 Race, Place, and Poverty Revisited
      (pp. 201-231)
      Michael A. Stoll

      Not long ago, the lens viewing urban America displayed chocolate cities and vanilla suburbs. Popular funk bands of the 1970s, such as Parliament with their megahit “Chocolate Cities,” helped mold this understanding through musical lyrics that described American urban areas becoming darker and poorer while suburbs were emerging as white and rich (Avila 2004). U.S. cities were not, of course, always understood in these terms. The great black migrations from the South to the North in the early and mid-1900s, coupled with de jure and de facto discrimination that limited economic and residential opportunities, had tremendous effects on the socioeconomic...

    • Chapter 9 Place, Race, and Access to the Safety Net
      (pp. 232-260)
      Scott W. Allard

      This volume and other research show the clear connections between place, racial segregation, and concentrated poverty in urban and rural communities. Living in impoverished neighborhoods isolated from job opportunities, good schools, and quality housing is associated with negative education, employment, and health outcomes, particularly for racial minorities. To reduce segregation and the isolation of poor populations from opportunity, government housing and redevelopment programs often seek to expand affordable housing options, increase the mobility of poor families to better neighborhoods, and generate job growth within high-poverty communities.

      Typically overlooked, however, is the relationship between place, race, and the agencies that administer...

    • Chapter 10 Punishment, Crime, and Poverty
      (pp. 261-292)
      Darren Wheelock and Christopher Uggen

      The association between crime, punishment, and poverty has long been the subject of sociological and criminological investigation. Recent work has shifted attention to the role of criminal punishment in explaining contemporary trends in inequality (Clear 2007; Clear, Rose, and Ryder 2001; Pager 2003; Petersilia 2003; Pettit and Western 2004; Western 2006; Western and Pettit 2000). Despite the strides in this area, research linking racial disparities in criminal sanctions to different domains of inequality remains incomplete and largely segmented. For example, although studies have examined the impact of felon disenfranchisement on the democratic process (Uggen, Manza, and Thompson 2006), its impact...

    • Chapter 11 Coloring the Terms of Membership
      (pp. 293-322)
      Joe Soss and Sanford F. Schram

      Most studies of racial and ethnic inequalities focus on how discrete, measurable things get allocated across groups. “Who benefits,” researchers ask as they examine the allocation of goods, “and why do some get more than others?” Such questions rightly lie at the heart of our collective effort to understand how inequalities persist and change. Yet they are not the whole of it. Disparities exist, not only in who gets more or less, but also in how social groups are positioned in relation to one another and major societal institutions (Tilly 1998).

      In this chapter, we explore racial and ethnic disparities...

  9. Index
    (pp. 323-334)