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A Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City Hardcover – January 17, 2003

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A Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City + Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (January 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156584615X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565846159
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Popular magazines abound with references to the beneficent lives of Americans in their older years. In this excellent work, Newman, an urban anthropologist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, contrasts this generalization with the realities of middle-aged and elderly African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominican immigrants in New York City. Her basic sources include the 1995 MacArthur Foundation survey of mid-life development in the United States, a companion study of aging ethnic and racial minorities in New York City, and in-depth personal interviews with a sample of those minority elders. The oral histories of their life-forming young-adult years reveal consistent frustrations with in an environment of deteriorating neighborhoods, vanishing economic opportunities, devastating invasions of crack cocaine, broken families headed by females, minimal community support systems, and outmoded public assistance policies. Newman's research reveals that elderly Americans in New York City's inner enclaves are generally poor and stressed, too often overwhelmed by financial and personal worries and obligations-an unfortunate, though potentially correctable, aberration to what luckier elders in America accept as a relatively sanguine time of life. Academic and larger public libraries will want to purchase this.
Suzanne W. Wood, emerita, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


A much-needed counterweight to the endless streams of publications that feature golden older people enjoying wealth and good health. -- American Journal of Sociology

A very thoughtful and clear picture of growing old in the inner city. -- Clamor magazine

An excellent work. -- Library Journal

Moving and compelling ….the first comprehensive and definitive study of the challenges facing older inner-city residents. -- William Julius Wilson --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Katherine Newman is the author of "The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition" (Beacon Press, 2012). She is a professor of sociology and James Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Author of ten books on middle-class economic instability, urban poverty, and the sociology of inequality, Newman has taught at the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Will Kirk, 2012.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By B. McEwan VINE VOICE on January 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Katherine Newman is a scholar who actually writes readable books, including A Different Shade of Gray, which is a presentation of research she did on racial and class disparities of the aging experience in America. In an earlier book, No Shame in My Game, Newman explored the experiences of young, low-wage workers in Harlem. That too was a highly readable and interesting book, this one about economic inequities among poor people of color. Both books amply demonstrate that there is a group of gainfully employed urban dwellers, mostly black and Hispanic, who are poor even though they are hard workers who, for the most part, do the right things. Yet they fail to get ahead because of multiple structural and attitudinal barriers within American society.

I read A Different Shade of Gray so that I could better understand why some racial and social groups in our incredibly wealthy nation experience a sad and impoverished old age. Not surprisingly, Newman identifies an underfunded public education system as one of the major barriers that keep the urban poor from working their way out of poverty by the time they retire. But there are a number of other roadblocks that tend to push elders,particularly women, into poverty. One of these is the failure to acquire assets during their working years because low-income women often must curtail work hours, or quit work altogether, to care for ill family members or for children.

Newman describes an entire generation of elder black women who are now raising grandchildren because their own daughters fell prey to the crack epidemic in the 1980s.
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