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Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations And Attainment In A Low-income Neighborhood, Expanded Edition Paperback – July 11, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0813315157 ISBN-10: 0813315158 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A Rhodes scholar, Jay MacLeod holds degrees in social studies and theology. He and his wife, Sally Asher, spent four years in Mississippi, where their work with local teenagers led to the publication of Minds Stayed on Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle in the Rural South, An Oral History (WestviewPress). MacLeod is now an Anglican priest in Chesterfield, a declining mining and market town in Asher's native England.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; 1st edition (July 11, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813315158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813315157
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This was required reading in my Sociological class.
science gal
This book does a great job of investigating class structure in America by taking out the issue of race.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Matthieu P. Raillard VINE VOICE on September 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this years ago in an anthropology/sociology class in college, and I can say that it still carries as much weight today as it did then. Jay manages to weave entertaining narration with factual reporting, resulting in a moving work that points a critical finger at our society. I've actually met the author, and can say that he is an honest, engaging and professional writer. At no point did he milk the drama angle of this work, nor use it to further his own agenda. I noticed another reviewer called this book "socialist junk"; to this person I say: just because this work is a testament to some of the failures of America's precious capitalist model does not immediately make it socialist. Moreover, if socialism means having a conscience about racism and socioeconomic discrimination, then sign me up!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Martin Hughes on June 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this book from cover to cover (which, in its current edition, is quite some doing) and was absorbed by the reality of the stories all the way through. It's not always the easiest book to read, but the fact that the author really immersed himself in the lives and world of his subjects for several years, seeking to truly understand them, is evident on every page. Tracking two groups of lower-class men from 'the projects' (one black and one white) for more than twenty-five years, the book remains the gold standard for exploring the issue of social mobility over the life course in the United States. That the original edition was written before the author even graduated from college, and that he went on to a career as a parish priest instead of an academic sociologist, makes it all the more impressive.

The author does have his own biases, but he never draws conclusions that aren't supported by the evidence. And the evidence is overwhelming: it usually takes more than a 'good attitude' or a 'strong work ethic' to get ahead in America. It also takes many of the substantive and symbolic resources that middle-class children take for granted, yet middle-class parents are careful to pass down to them. Meanwhile, the mistakes and poor choices that middle-class youth easily overcome can be devastating for poor youth, starting a downward spiral from which it is very difficult to recover. Lastly, this book describes in vivid detail what all the statistics report: that, on average, poor black children have more ambition than poor white children.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By S. Calhoun on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book provides a thorough account of the aspirations and expectations of two male peer groups residing in a public housing project. Both peer groups, although originating from similar class locations, have distinct aspirations resulting from their racial lived experiences. The peer group consisting mostly of young black men (The Brothers) supported the achievement ideology that we live in an open society. They viewed the hardships faced by previous generations was a result of racial discrimination barriers that (theoretically) cease to exist. They applied themselves in socially acceptable practices such as excelling in school and keeping out of trouble. In contrast, the peer group consisting of mostly young white men (Hallway Hangers) rejected the achievement ideology and had low aspirations of their position in the labor market. They realized through family and friends that their chances of getting out of the projects is slim leading most of the Hallway Hangers dropped out of school and smoked dope, among other illegal activities. Despite the disjuncture of both groups' levels of aspirations, both failed to get out of poverty. MacLeod hung out with both of these male peer groups in an effort to understand their daily meanings of the role of education and their future aspirations rather than relying exclusively on statistical data.
I give this book four stars because MacLeod failed to take into consideration the aspirations and expectations of young women. Instead he concentrated solely on the role of race and class. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand how societal structures restrict and limit the actions of individuals. Furthermore this book challenges the myth that education creates a level playing field for all regardless of race or class (and gender too ~ although not addressed here).
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book gives an excellent insight into the lives of teenagers living in a low-income neighborhood. The book calls into question the American achievement ideology and forces the reader to reconsider his or her pre-concieved notions on poverty and its causes. The truth is that people aren't poor because they are lazy; they are poor because of numberous structural barriers in society that basicly trap them into poverty. This book is excellent for anyone interested in the social structure, but it would be better for someone who has never thought about the way society works and has the kind of closed-mindedness that cause many upper and middle-class people to view people of lesser social standing as lazy.
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