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Race, Poverty, and Domestic Policy

Race, Poverty, and Domestic Policy

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 824
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  • Book Info
    Race, Poverty, and Domestic Policy
    Book Description:

    What explains the continuing hardship of so many black Americans? A distinguished group of scholars analyzes the long, complex structural and environmental causes of discrimination and their effects on African-Americans. The authors examine the impact of poverty, poor health, poor schools, poor housing, poor neighborhoods, and few job opportunities-and demonstrate how multiple causes reinforce each other and condemn African-Americans to positions of inferiority and poverty.

    Some of the contributors examine policies designed to correct problems, while others look at the changing racial and ethnic composition in America and its implications for African-Americans, as other minorities surpass them in numbers and claim political, economic, and social attention. The late James Tobin has contributed a foreword to this important collection.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12984-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    James Tobin

    In his time at Yale, Michael Henry was the entrepreneur most responsible for organizing and maintaining interdisciplinary discussion of contemporary issues of United States social policies, in particular those relating to poverty and related disadvantage of inner-city minorities. Yale was fortunate that Michael took this initiative. The many scholars at Yale concerned with these difficult issues of professional social science are scattered—among economics, political science, sociology, public health, medicine, law, African-American studies, and women’s studies. As in other universities, it takes conscious effort and concentration on common interests to bring them together. Yale’s long-established Institution for Social and Policy...

  4. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Historical Overview of Race and Poverty from Reconstruction to 1969
    (pp. 1-56)

    This introductory essay focuses on historical factors that effected the straitened circumstances of African Americans. Race and poverty are placed in historical context to shed light on the link between race and poverty in the historical past and contemporary problems of black penury.

    For analytical purposes, African American history is divided into four periods: pre–Civil War, 1865 to 1940, 1941 to 1969, and 1970 to the present. The pre–Civil War period encompasses slavery, which is not of immediate relevance here, although the problems of race and poverty are a significant part of the damning legacies of slavery. Chapters...

  6. Part I. Economic Inequality and Income Inequality

    • 1 From Income Inequality to Economic Inequality
      (pp. 59-82)

      I begin by recounting a true story—a rather trivial and innocuous story, as it happens, but one with something of a lesson. Some years ago, when I went to give a lecture at another campus, I chose “Economic Inequality” as the title of my talk. On arrival, I found the campus covered with posters announcing that I was speaking on “Income Inequality.” When I grumbled about it slightly, I encountered gentle, but genuine, amazement that I wanted to fuss about such “an insignificant difference.” Indeed, the identification of economic inequality with income inequality is fairly standard, and the two...

    • 2 Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality: A Cross-National Perspective
      (pp. 83-96)

      Orthodox economic theory denies the persistence of employment discrimination in markets. Neoclassical microeconomics really cannot be massaged to produce a convincing story of why members of productively equivalent but ascriptively different groups experience widely disparate economic outcomes. Even the best story modern marginalists have to offer, the statistical discrimination hypothesis, does not wash well.

      If members of two groups—call them group A and group B—share the same frequency distributions of ability to perform a job, employers should learn this is the case over time. Conventional theory would then lead us to conclude that employers should become indifferent between...

  7. Part II. Issues in Measurement of Inequality and Poverty

    • 3 Measuring Poverty: Issues and Approaches
      (pp. 99-116)

      The official poverty thresholds used presently by the U.S. Census Bureau to measure poverty have their basis in seminal papers by Orshansky (1963, 1965). At that time, the major attempt to quantify the number and distribution of the poor was given by tabulations published from the 1960 Census. In addition, several 1960s reports from the Current Population Survey (CPS) that provided the number of families with incomes below $3,000 and unrelated individuals with incomes below $1,500 (see U.S. Census Bureau, 1965, 1969).

      The key problem with the concept used in the Census and CPS tabulations was that both small and...

    • 4 Medical Spending, Health Insurance, and Measurement of American Poverty
      (pp. 117-154)

      Controversy has swirled around the measurement of U.S. poverty for at least three decades. Unlike other economic indicators, such as the gross domestic product or the unemployment rate, the poverty rate arouses such intense controversy that government statisticians have been unable to make fundamental improvements in its calculation. The consumer price index is the only other economic indicator that receives a comparable degree of public scrutiny. Political controversy surrounding the measurement of price change has not prevented the Bureau of Labor Statistics from implementing major improvements in measuring inflation over the past two decades, however. Indeed, the political controversy over...

  8. Part III. Structural Causes of African American Poverty

    • 5 The Dynamic Racial Composition of the United States
      (pp. 157-172)

      In revisiting Gunnar Myrdal’sAn American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy,it is appropriate to reconsider the underlying theoretical orientation of that work. Myrdal and his collaborators reduced the “Negro problem” to a problem of assimilation or amalgamation into white America.An American Dilemmapresents the racial conflict in American society as a moral problem, a problem of the resistance to African amalgamation by European Americans.¹ Myrdal viewed the cultural and physical amalgamation of immigrants as the solution to their social isolation. But Myrdal and his colleagues were not aware at the time they were writing of the...

    • 6 The New Geography of Inequality in Urban America
      (pp. 173-187)

      The United States has become an increasingly stratified society. Over the past two decades, the distribution of income and wealth has grown progressively skewed, reversing a long postwar trend. During the 1980s, about one-fifth of the U.S. population experienced a sharp increase in real income; another fifth experienced a real decline in income; and those in the middle saw their incomes stagnate. Although these trends were at first questioned by critical observers, the shift toward greater income inequality is now widely accepted.

      This growing inequality occurred within a geographic structure that was itself becoming more unequal. Affluent and poor Americans...

    • 7 The Disparate Racial Neighborhood Impacts of Metropolitan Economic Restructuring
      (pp. 188-218)

      The restructuring of the national economy during the past two decades has created profound strains in our metropolitan areas. The economic base has progressively shifted from production of goods to services, central cities to suburbs, and Northeast and North Central regions to the South and West (Castells, 1985; Kasarda, 1985;1989). This restructuring has radically changed the type, numbers, locations, and skill requirements of jobs within most metropolitan areas. Although the ensuing adjustments have been difficult wherever they occurred, there is a growing belief that the effects of economic restructuring are not spread evenly across metropolitan space. In particular, many observers...

  9. Part IV. Critical Factors Militating Against Black Progress:: Retrospect and Prospect

    • 8 The Demise of a Dinosaur: Analyzing School and Housing Desegregation in Yonkers
      (pp. 221-241)

      In October 1995, city officials of Englewood, New Jersey, appealed to Governor Christine Todd Whitman for help in resolving a controversy over whether Englewood and its two neighboring towns should embark on a program of mandatory school desegregation.¹ “The animosity is so strong now that the only way to get any kind of agreement—and I think it’s possible—would be with the Governor or a very, very high state official acting as a mediator and facilitator,” claimed Mayor Donald Aronson in a public hearing (Hanley 1995: B1). This mayoral plea is not unique. Citizens and politicians are increasingly turning...

    • 9 Suburban Exclusion and the Courts: Can a Class-Based Remedy Reduce Urban Segregation?
      (pp. 242-269)

      Metropolitan housing segregation is a fundamental structure, a basic cause, of racial inequality in the United States. Martin Luther King’s last major civil rights campaign was against housing segregation in Chicago, and it was there that he met the most relentless and successful opposition.¹ Not only were there violent attacks, but local political leaders defending local segregation patterns were able to escape with only symbolic change, in contrast to their southern counterparts. A third of a century later, Chicago and the other great centers of black migration remain intensely segregated. Sociologists Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, in their massive statistical...

    • 10 Civil Rights and the Status of Black Americans in the 1960s and the 1990s
      (pp. 270-310)

      The accomplishments of the modern civil rights movement distinguish the 1960s from previous and later decades. The litigation strategy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People dating from the early twentieth century, the nation’s growing commitment after World War II to the democratic ideal of equal opportunities for all, and the increasing educational attainment of the population laid a sturdy foundation for the eventually successful efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, his collaborators, and his numerous followers. His oration at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, will be one of the most frequently quoted speeches of...

    • 11 Poverty, Racism, and Migration: The Health of the African American Population
      (pp. 311-335)

      Health is an important and desirable personal and social resource. It determines the quantity and quality of life, and has an important effect on an individual’s ability to capitalize on opportunities available in society. The health of the American population is distributed unevenly across race. In 1998, the life expectancy at birth in the United States was 77 years. However, it varied from 71 years for African Americans to 76 years for White Americans (National Center for Health Statistics 2000). Moreover, life expectancy for African Americans has worsened in recent years. For every year between 1985 and 1989 the life...

    • 12 The American News Media and Public Misperceptions of Race and Poverty
      (pp. 336-364)

      As Walter Lippmann argued decades ago, our opinions and behavior are responses not to the world itself, but to our perceptions of that world. It is the “pictures in our heads” that shape our feelings and actions, and these pictures only imperfectly reflect the world that surrounds us. Just as importantly, our experience of the world is largely indirect. “Our opinions,” Lippmann wrote, “cover a bigger space, a longer reach of time, a greater number of things, than we can directly observe. They have, therefore, to be pieced together out of what others have reported” (Lippmann 1960:79). Already in Lippmann’s...

  10. Part V. The Differential Impact of Skills on Earnings

    • 13 U.S. Education and Training Policy: A Reevaluation of the Underlying Assumptions Behind the “New Consensus”
      (pp. 367-404)

      The American labor market has undergone dramatic changes in the past fifteen years, and has particularly worsened for low-skilled workers. The wages of many groups of workers have declined. The ratios of the wages of college graduates to those of high school graduates and high school dropouts have increased and participation in the market by low-skilled workers has fallen.

      Policy analysts have been quick to recognize these changes and to recommend policies designed to reverse them. Most of the proposed solutions entail increased investment in “human capital,” that is, training and education, to upgrade the skill level of the workforce...

    • 14 The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination
      (pp. 405-430)

      The past twenty years have witnessed a growing popular literature on transformation of U.S. industry. According to this literature, competitive pressures have forced rapid restructuring in manufacturing firms and, more recently, in service firms as well. The result is a rapid upgrading in occupational skill requirements, with important implications for the nation’s schools (e.g., Marshall and Tucker, 1992). While this hypothesis has received enormous attention, there has been surprisingly little detailed empirical research supporting it.

      The strongest evidence supporting the increased demand for skilled workers is the sharp rise since the late 1970s in the premium for increased schooling (Blackburn,...

    • 15 Escalating Differences and Elusive “Skills”: Cognitive Abilities and the Explanation of Inequality
      (pp. 431-448)

      The increase in income inequality in the U.S. since the early 1970s, according to a virtual consensus among economists, policy makers, and the media, is the result of a long-term increase in the return to skilled labor, which in turn is said to reflect a shift in the structure of labor demand in favor of skilled workers.¹

      A reasonable, and often suggested, interpretation of the skill component in inequality is that much of it is associated with cognitive capacities. This interpretation is often combined with the view that cognitive skills are genetically transmitted, and that for this reason the distribution...

    • 16 Earnings of Black and White Youth and Their Relation to Poverty
      (pp. 449-476)

      Economic analysis of the labor supply of young people who live with their parents traditionally includes attention to the effect of parental income on youth employment and earnings. In this chapter, we examine a particular aspect of the converse relation: the effect that work by young men ages 16 to 19 has on their family’s income and poverty status. To address the question this way implies a reciprocal relation between youth employment and family income. Identifying causality is beyond our reach, but we can quantify the association of these two economic outcomes for black and white families with a rich...

  11. Part VI. Racial and Familial Hardship:: Welfare Benefits and Welfare Reform

    • 17 Teenage Childbearing and Personal Responsibility: An Alternative View
      (pp. 479-508)

      The nature and scope of the welfare reform debate resulting in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996¹ (PRWORA) reflect a growing convergence toward the position that poverty is the result of poor people’s values and behaviors.² Among examples of this convergence is a perspective on teenage childbearing that informed some provisions of PRWORA.³ “Teenage childbearing” operates as a uniquely effective symbol of the failure to act responsibly. At first glance, everyone can agree that teenage childbearing is a “bad thing,” unambiguously harmful to all involved—the young parents, the innocent children, and the larger society. Because...

    • 18 Where Should Teen Mothers Live? What Should We Do About It?
      (pp. 509-564)

      Many people believe that public aid creates incentives for young mothers to make choices detrimental to the public interest and their own long-term goals. One of the most important of these incentives concerns the ability of teen mothers on public aid to establish independent households rather than to reside with their parents or other relatives.

      The prospect that welfare induces young mothers to prematurely establish independent households is disquieting for several reasons:

      This pattern suggests that welfare displaces informal support that parents, grandparents, and other relatives might otherwise provide. Generous public aid may therefore encourage friends and relatives of the...

    • 19 Family Allowances and Poverty Among Lone Mother Families in the United States
      (pp. 565-582)

      The feminization of poverty is not unique to the United States. Across industrialized countries, poverty rates are higher for families headed by women than for other families and the number of families headed by women is growing. However, by many measures, single mothers and their children face a higher risk of extreme poverty in the United States than in other western industrialized countries. Table 19.1 summarizes the results of four recent comparative studies of the economic status of lone mother families.¹ Although the studies rely on different indicators of economic well-being, they all reach a similar conclusion: lone mothers and...

    • 20 How Much More Can They Work? Setting Realistic Expectations for Welfare Mothers
      (pp. 583-602)

      In recent years, the social safety net for low-income families has been radically transformed. For sixty years, beginning in 1936, families with children and with limited income or assets were entitled to ongoing cash assistance from the program christened Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Now, in most states, families with limited income or assets can receive cash assistance only if they agree to seek employment or work in exchange for government assistance (Pavetti, Holcomb, and Duke 1995; General Accounting Office 1997).

      This transformation of the social safety net for low-income families with children began with implementation of numerous...

    • 21 Turning Our Backs on the New Deal: The End of Welfare in 1996
      (pp. 603-630)

      President Clinton campaigned on a platform “to make work pay” and to “end welfare as we know it.” InPutting People First(1992) he declared, “It’s time to honor and reward people who work hard and play by the rules. That means ending welfare as we know it—not by punishing the poor or preaching to them, but by empowering Americans to take care of their children and improve their lives. No one who works full-time and has children at home should be poor anymore. No one who can work should be able to stay on welfare forever.”

      Shortly after...

    • 22 Fighting Poverty: Lessons from Recent U.S. History
      (pp. 631-650)

      In his 1964 State of the Union address, his first after assuming the presidency, Lyndon Johnson proclaimed: “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” The result of Johnson’s speech was a series of major legislative changes, whose success (or failure) is still hotly debated.

      By the mid-1990s, the focus of policy concern had shifted from fighting poverty to reducing welfare dependence. One might argue, however, that the 1990s, rather than the 1960s, were truly the decade in which the United States fought a war on poverty. The 1990s were a time of substantial legislative...

  12. Part VII. Communal Hardship in Black Residential Areas:: Crime and Law Enforcement

    • 23 Crime, Poverty, and Entrepreneurship
      (pp. 653-669)

      Utterly ignored in recent discussions of poverty policy are strategies designed to enhance the managerial and entrepreneurial talents of inner-city residents. Poverty research has focused instead on welfare and work. We have tried, often with little success, to transform the poor into low-wage workers when perhaps we should be training them to be owners.

      While many scholars persist in viewing participation in alternatives to legitimate employment as evidence of pathological behavior, there is a growing recognition that criminal participation may not be irrational.¹ It is often a very rational response to unappealing or unavailable job opportunities. Many criminal activities of...

    • 24 Violence and the Inner-City Street Code
      (pp. 670-698)

      Of all the problems besetting the poor inner-city black community, none is more pressing than that of interpersonal violence and aggression. This phenomenon wreaks havoc daily on the lives of community residents and increasingly spills over into downtown and residential middle-class areas. Muggings, burglaries, carjackings, and drug-related shootings, all of which may leave their victims or innocent bystanders dead, are now common enough to concern all urban and many suburban residents. The inclination to violence springs from the circumstances of life among the ghetto poor

      —the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, the stigma of race, the...

  13. Part VIII. Economic Development of Black Communities

    • 25 Minority Business Development Programs: Failure by Design
      (pp. 701-730)

      Minority enterprise assistance programs are largely flawed in intent, design, and implementation. Moreover, no fundamental rethinking or reorientation of these programs is in the offing: hence, ineffective policies have been implemented without brake (Bates, 2000). The language of minority enterprise assistance—helping “socially and economically disadvantaged firms”— reveals flawed premises that undermine minority business enterprise (MBE) programs: as long as minority entrepreneurs are thought of as the walking wounded of the small business world, efforts will be misdirected. Indeed, these minority business development programs fail frequently because they ignore the factors that shape small business viability.

      Aid efforts often focus...

    • 26 A Social Accounting Matrix Model of Inner-City New Haven: An Alternative Framework for Development
      (pp. 731-776)

      In this chapter, I apply a social accounting system to demonstrate how positive policy interventions can considerably alleviate, if not eradicate, poverty and its concomitants in inner cities.¹ The inner city encompasses areas peopled primarily by impoverished black and Latino Americans. Perhaps in no other communities is despair as forlorn and morale as shattered as in inner cities. In these communities, unemployment looms large. Indeed, intolerably high levels of unemployment is characteristic of inner cities. Yet unemployment is treated by monetary policy authorities as a prophylactic against inflation,² a remedy which exacerbates and perpetuates inner-city hardship and, which may be...

  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 777-778)
  15. Index
    (pp. 779-804)