How Social Science Treats Inner-City Poverty
August 5, 2010 10:21 AM Subscribe
Anyone who wishes to understand American society must be aware that explanations focusing on the cultural traits of inner-city residents are likely to draw far more attention from policy makers and the general public than structural explanations will. It is an unavoidable fact that Americans tend to de-emphasize the structural origins and social significance of poverty and welfare ... If, in America, you can grow up to be anything you want to be, then any destiny—even poverty—can be viewed through the lens of personal achievement or failure. William Julius Wilson on the political and academic failure to recognize structural causes of inner-city poverty. Wilson interviewed in conjunction with the article.
Although cultural forces play a role in inner-city outcomes, the evidence suggests that they are secondary to the larger economic and political forces, both racial and nonracial, that move our American society. Indeed, structural conditions provide the context within which cultural responses to chronic economic and racial subordination are developed.
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