Last Updated 15 Apr 2020

Solving Black Inner City Poverty

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FILM QUESTIONNAIRE #2 DUE DATE: 10/8/10 NAME: Solving Black Inner-City Poverty: William Julius Wilson, Films for the Humanities, Inc. , 1994 [30 minutes] 1. What has been the main cause of the rise of concentrated poverty in the urban ghetto since the 1970s according to Wilson? (4 points) Wilson argues that one of the main cause of the rise of concentrated poverty in the urban ghetto since the 1970s is the fact of segregation. In the 1970s the poor, middle class and upper class all lived in the same neighborhoods. This gave the poor more opportunities to find jobs through interaction with the wealthier tier of citizens.

Nowadays, the less fortunate cluster in the ghettos and create their own life-ways, which makes it increasingly difficult to get out of the vicious circle. The schools in the neighborhood are not adequate, there are less opportunities and they cant live up to the morals and values that they would like to, but form their own. Another major factor to why the poor stay poor is the fact that single-mom households have increased from 20% in the 1970s to 51% today and the struggle it is for them to get out of the ghetto being what they are.

In his book The Declining Significance of Race he further examines the question; "Why do poverty and unequal opportunity persist in the lives of so many African Americans? " In response, he traces the history and current state of powerful structural factors impacting African Americans, such as discrimination in laws, policies, hiring, housing, and education. He argues against either/or politicized views of poverty among African Americans that either focus blame solely on cultural factors or only on unjust structural factors.

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He tries to demonstrate the importance of understanding not only the independent contributions of social structure and culture, but also how they interact to shape different group outcomes that embody racial inequality. 2. What are some elements of the informal sex code that governs sexual relations in the ghetto? (3 points) Wilson contends that there is an “informal sexcode” within the ghettos and that the ratio of births among young women is increasing. Men gain prestige by the numbers of girlfriends as well as children they accumulate.

And since black males are “unmarriable” when they do not have a job to support the family, the women end up alone with several children. Wilson was one of the first to enunciate at length the "spatial mismatch" theory for the development of a ghetto underclass. As industrial jobs disappeared in cities in the wake of global economic restructuring, and hence urban unemployment increased, women found it unwise to marry the fathers of their children, since the fathers would not be breadwinners. 3. Wilson advocates universal type programs for dealing with the plight of the inner city poor.

What is meant by universal programs? Why is he in favor of universal as opposed to race-specific solutions? (4 points) A Universal Program is a program that addresses all races. Wilson favors Universal programs for the fact that no American citizen should be living in poverty. As of the time of the interview two thirds of the poor within the US population was white. The whites were also hit hard by the de-industrialization, not only the black. Wilson argues that we should talk in Universal terms, about programs that are there to help all Americans get a job.

The way to reach the poor is by introducing an alternative avenue to success, they feel neglected and not involved in the white middle/upper-class society so in return they have created their own sphere where they set the rules and where perceived relative deprivation is high. Where the poor blacks have nurtured hatred towards the white middleclass for doing well. 4. Wilson himself grew up in a poor family in rural Pennsylvania. Why does he think he was able to escape poverty against the odds? (3 points)

Wilson grew up in a poor family in rural Pennsylvania but still managed to escape poverty since he had a very good role model, namely his Aunt Janice. His aunt (with his mother behind her) pushed Wilson to get an education and took him on trips, to museums and gave him books. She got him on his feet and he took over from there. He was also raised in rural Pennsylvania and not in an inner city, which is a big difference. In the inner city you have a sense of crowdedness, a high rate of crimes, easy access to drugs, and the sense of being imprisoned, which you do not have in the rural parts of the country.

This gives you a different outlook on things according to Wilson. 5. In the article we read (“A Black City Within the White”), Loic Wacquant formulates a strong critique of Wilson and other proponents of the “underclass” thesis. What is the crux of his critique? Do you agree with Wilson or Wacquant? Why? (6 points) Wilson argues that the significance of race is waning, and an African-American's class is comparatively more important in determining his or her life chances.

Wacquant, on the other hand, argues that a ghetto is not simply a conglomeration of poor families or a spatial accumulation of undesirable social conditions but an institutional form. He points out that it is the instrument of ethnoracial closure and power whereby a population deemed disreputable and dangerous is at once secluded and controlled. Furthermore, he disputes the fact that ghettos were ever simply desolate places of ecological disrepair and social hardship. He points out that there was – and still are – manifestations of a power relation between the dominant white society and its subordinate black caste.

I would argue that Wilsons’s argument that the labor market problems African Americans face today are largely due to deindustrialization and consequent skills mismatches. On one hand, African Americans never were especially dependent on jobs in the manufacturing sector, so deindustrialization in itself has not had a major impact on African Americans, and that, on the other hand, the relative labor market success of poorly-educated immigrants in the postindustrial era shows that there is no absence of jobs for those ith few skills. To me, Wilson puts forth the attitude that a persons patterns and norms of behavior tend to be shaped by those with which he or she has had the most frequent or sustained contact and interaction. First, he seems to argue that external influences or differential associations are on of the key pillars to his theory, secondly, the out-migration of middle-class minorities, and thirdly, the problem of distance and spatial mismatch - between inner city residents and places of potential employment.

He also attributed the increasing rate of inner city marriage disintegration to consistent states of joblessness. I must say that I think Wilson does not give enough emphasis to the role of race. Racial segregation is much more crucial to the development of concentrated poverty and any resulting neighborhood disintegration than black middle-class out-migration, while social class segregation is a very real factor, it is notably intensified when racial segregation is high. Wilson is not acknowledging current discriminatory practices, in my opinion.

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