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Poverty & Urban Blacks

William Julius Wilson in The Truly Disadvantaged claims that liberals have too often viewed racism as an easy explanation for the plight of blacks in the inner city. Wilson sets out to reform the liberal perspective by demonstrating that the true causes of the inequitable distribution of poverty among urban blacks are much more complex. Race-specific policies such as affirmative action do little to help the black underclass. Hardcore urban poverty must be fought with universal economic reform programs.

The emergence of the underclass in black society first received recognition by social scientists during the mid-1960s. Despite rising unemployment, teenage pregnancies, and female-headed households, African-American communities such as Harlem exhibited many positive aspects of social organizations throughout most of the 20th Century. Residents felt a sense of community, and few episodes of anti-social behavior disturbed the general feelings of security. By the 1970s, the situation had changed drastically. The rate of social dislocation in black neighborhoods increased to the point where law-abiding citizens feared walking the streets at night (Wilson 3). Urban analysts discussed the causes and repercussions of the deterioration of inner city neighborhoods, but seldom formulated meaningful policies to address the problems.

By the 1980s, sociologists still found themselves at a loss to develop solutions to help the black underclass. Debate still surrounds the extent of the problem, causes and explanations, and policy recommendations. The only real progress made has been to define the affected disadvantaged group as the "underclass." Views regarding this underclass fall into liberal or conservative ideology. The liberals believe that society as a whole is to blame for the existence of the underclass. As Wilson explains it, "liberal scholars . . . argued that cultural values do not ultimately determine behavior or suc...

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Poverty & Urban Blacks. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:58, June 15, 2019, from