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The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy Paperback – October 15, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0226901312 ISBN-10: 0226901319 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This eminent sociologist has written a complex and provocative analysis of black inner-city poverty. Eschewing both liberal and conservative orthodoxies, Wilson argues that the substantial increase in urban poverty over the past few decades has not been caused by either contemporary racism or an internalized "culture of poverty" value system. Rather it has been the result of major shifts in the economic system, as jobs have left the urban manufacturing sector for a decentralized service sector. Because race-specific policies like affirmative action have tended to benefit the black middle class, only holistic policies available to all Americans who need them can reverse this cycle of poverty. Massive job training programs and more child care would provide a start. Highly recommended for major public and college libraries. Anthony O. Edmonds, History Dept., Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

William Julius Wilson is Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program and the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. He is the author of numerous publications, including The Declining Significance of Race, and The Truly Disadvantaged, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (October 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226901319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226901312
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
A sure indication that you have arrived at an independent, intellectual, and honest position is the degree to which both sides of the ideological fence find fault with your work. Mr Wilson experienced that with his earlier book THE DECLINING SIGNIFICANCE OF RACE, the radical liberal left, excoriated him as selling out his race and lambasted his work as cultural determinism. With THE TRULY DISADVANTAGED, Mr Wilson gives as good as he gets.
Cogently he argues that the Great Society architects thought that creating educational, training, and development programs would, by their very existence, simply cause poverty to shrink. There was very little analysis of the impact that changes in the US economy would have - not only on the programs, but on the beneficiaries. One telling indication that his finger is on the correct pulse - economics - is this: in nearly every year that unemployment has risen and wages have fallen, poverty has grown worse, yet "when the economy has picked up, poverty has lessened."
There are a couple of things that are significant about this book, which, even now, 14 years later, makes it one of the more useful and original analyses even done on US urban problems.
(1) When it was written, in the late 1980's the economic trends that Mr Wilson so clearly elucidates as the problem were still largely unstudied, especially the interconnectivity and complexity of the issues. Mr Wilson says conservative writers such as Charles Murray are incorrect when they proclaim that because poverty rates were as high in the 1980's as they were in the 1960's, the Great Society programs were failures. This neglects, or conveniently ignores, the fact that there was a doubling of the unemployment rate, which disproportionately affected blacks.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By W. Sawyer on January 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Wilson does not beat around the bush; this book is a fairly quick read, but dense with economic and social policy criticism and sociological analyses. Specifically, expect to hear a lot about race-specific policies (i.e. affirmative action) and how they don't really help the "ghetto underclass." Might offend some senses but the ideas here are solid, and Wilson uses race as a reference point, not an explanation. Instead, he explains the problems of the "underclass" in terms of social and economic policy. His case against race-specific policies (and for large-scale economic change) is strengthened when you consider that the social/economic situation of poor inner city minority communities is not very different from Wilson described 20 years ago. This book also offers a clear explanation of the problems of those communities, and research to back it up.

Overall, I'd say it's a must-read for anyone interested in social policy or recent U.S. history.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By David C on February 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
In The Truly Disadvantaged, Wilson attempts to concentrate where his previous work The Declining Significance of Race left off, more specifically the effects of social isolation, male joblessness, and single mother headed families have perpetuated a self-fulfilling prophecy among young black youth. A daunting task at hand, I must say, but I think he makes valid points, yet they aren't articulated as well as in his previous work.
I believe that this is a worth while book for any reader trying to understand the complexities of the urban poor.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Cato Sapiens on March 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Groundbreaking and unconventional, Wilson took a completely independent stance in this book, one that managed to displease partisans on both left and right. What he argues for is, among other things, that race-based programs and policies are doomed to fail because they ignore the core economic issues which in the inner city communities are at least partly defined by the elimination of industry-based jobs. Since Wilson wrote this over 20 years ago, the original economic problems are now massively compounded by precisely the kind of social problems he at least in part predicted. A brilliantly argued work that is perhaps even more valuable today because partisanship from both conservatives and radical "race based" activists has almost completely replaced reasoned, compassionate understanding.
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