Loic J. D. Wacquant and William Julius Wilson “The Cost of Racial and Class Exclusion in the Inner City”

Wacquant and Wilson present support for the idea that the American ghetto has transformed into a new context that presents a “formidable and unprecedented set of obstacles for ghetto blacks” through deteriorating social and economical structures; the major problems the authors attribute to deindustrialization of the city. Following World War II, urban areas experienced an expansion in the industrial sector, and an influx of African Americans moved to cities to join a viable workforce. However, a subsequent shift from manufacturing jobs to service jobs and relocation of manufacturers from urban areas to suburban areas adversely impacted the employment opportunities in the cities. In 1954, Chicago was counted as having over 10,000 manufacturers employing 616,000 people, twenty-eight years later in 1982, the number of manufacturers decreased by almost half, employing only 162,000 blue collar workers.

In this post-industrial revolution era, people that were able to followed the jobs to the suburbs. Left behind in the urban areas were poor black communities without necessary revenues or economic resources, which Wacquant and Wilson classified as hyperghettoization. The out flux of middle class blacks from cities to suburbs has also diminished a buffer zone that once provided hope for upward mobility for poorer residents. It has also reduced economic stability of these neighborhoods while increasing social isolation.

The authors compared Chicago ghettos, areas of concentrated poverty where at least 40 percent of residents below the poverty line, to low-poverty tracts, where 20 to 30 percent of the residents are below the poverty line. Residents of the ghetto experience, to a greater degree, joblessness and criminalistics behavior than in than low-poverty areas. Community social organization is greatly diminished in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty due to effects of the extreme social isolation experienced by residents. Social isolation diminishes network connections, social trust, and limits access to role model and mentors. Social capital is adversely affected by poverty and to an even greater extreme in urban areas of concentrated poverty.

Wacquant and Wilson found striking social, political and economical differences between persons living in low-poverty tracts and those living in the ghetto. For these reasons, Wilson believed that class, rather than race or culture, was more of a determining factor of economic success. If this is the case, in order to remove social inequalities, the focus needs to be on class structures rather than race structures.


W. E. B. Du Bois “The Environment of the Negro”

Du Bois’ in depth look at conditions of the urban environment in which African Americans live, was rather eye opening. In his account of the way of life in the Seventh Ward of Philadelphia, Du Bois brings attention to the stark sociological differences between the haves and the have-nots including disparities in, income, place of residence, employment, and family structure. For instance, he found that the living quarters of the majority of residents in the seventh ward were less than accommodating, not very affordable or hygienic. Many of the houses had no running water and very few, if any, lavatories. On top of this, the landlords “thirst for money-getting” compelled them to build more tenement houses on the same lot, exacerbating already deplorable living conditions.

Du Bois argues three factors leading to the inability of African Americans to secure accommodating, affordable, and predictable housing: 1) limit location choices to areas populated by African Americans as they feel they need to be in homogenous zones for fear of non-acceptance; 2) attachment to dwellings, such as churches or homes of relatives-they do not want to move too far from their childhood areas; and 3) occupation determines places of employment-like a catch-22. In order to commute work, they need to live near their place of employment, which is typically downtown in the central district. However, as we know from Edward Burgess, real estate near the central city district is either more expensive (zone I) or less desirable (zone II) than other areas.

Du Bois even explicates the differences between social classes among African American families in the Seventh Ward, even though its hard for some in the majority group to understand, the author found four clear and obvious differences that I believe can be applied to any social group. Basically he boils it down to the following social class levels:

Grade 4: The lowest class-people that work in the world of vice and criminality.

Grade 3: Poor but unfortunate folks that do not have steady job or income.

Grade 2: Hard working black middle class with a steady income.

Grade 1: “Aristocrats” that earning a respectable living.

Du Bois argues that rather than judging all members of a group based on the worst class, the group should be judged based on the best, with the expectation that this group will connect to the other classes, form strong bonds between the classes rather than segregate, and use their social capital to help lead the way to social reform and reduce the disparities between majority and minority groups.