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.


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

  • October 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

    The second great migration of Blacks from the south to the north/Midwest happen at an unfortunate time when industrialization was relocating overseas or to the suburbs. The later migrants could not find work like the earlier migrants or immigrants for that matter. Unlike earlier white immigrants who had been able to obtain some type of economic foothold many Black migrants still continued to experience discrimination in housing, employment, etc.
    “No group in the history of the United States has ever experienced the sustained high level of residential segregation that has been imposed on blacks in large American cities for the past fifty years” (p. 194).

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