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When Work Disappears

When Work Disappears

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Written by William Julius WilsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by William Julius Wilson

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • On Sale: July 29, 1997
  • Price: $17.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-679-72417-9 (0-679-72417-6)
Also available as an eBook.
about this book

The author of the acclaimed The Truly Disadvantaged writes about the devastating effects that the disappearance of work has on individual, family, and neighborhood life in the inner city. Wilson explores how the current loss of blue-collar jobs has crucially affected American society. He discusses the effects of the "suburbanization" of employment, which has excluded the black urban poor who remain isolated in neighborhoods of concentrated unemployment, neighborhoods that once featured a sizable proportion of working families. He describes a lack of locally available training and education, and the dissolution of government and private support of local organizations that once supplied job information as well as employment opportunities. And he examines the attitudes of employers toward ghetto residents and the resulting effects on hiring policies.

Interweaving the voices of scores of inner-city men and women whom he interviewed during years of intensive study, Wilson dismantles the conservative argument that the people of the ghettos lack drive and aspiration. He demonstrates that, on the contrary, their desire and quest for success and a stable life are comparable to those of society at large, but they develop within a context of constraints and opportunity drastically different from those in middle-class society.

Finally, Wilson outlines a series of programs that can help both the urban poor and the middle class, programs that are politically feasible at a time when government is battling to reform welfare and whose benefits would be felt across our society. He defines a framework of long- and short-term solutions to get America's jobless working again, including a twenty-first-century version of the WPA work program, available to all; transportation alternatives to get men and women to jobs in outlying areas; and crucial training and jobs for one of the groups with the highest unemployment rates--new high school graduates.

In When Work Disappears, Wilson makes a major contribution to the economic and social health of the nation--not only through his analysis of an almost overwhelming problem but through the practical steps he suggests toward a solution.

"This is Wilson's masterwork. It is also an agenda—I would say the agenda—for the nation in the generation ahead." —Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

"William Julius Wilson knows more than anyone else about the vicious pathologies of urban ghettos. Political leaders and plain citizens prepared to confront our greatest national tragedy with fact and common sense rather than fantasy and ideology must read this book, a worthy sequel to Wilson's classic The Truly Disadvantaged." —James Tobin, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Economics, Yale University; Nobel Prize in Economic Science, 1981

"Wilson is the keenest liberal analyst of the most perplexing of all American problems. . . . [This book is] more ambitious and more accessible than anything he has done before." —The New Yorker


Part I: The New Urban Poverty
1. From Institutional to Jobless Ghettos
2. Societal Changes and Vulnerable Neighborhoods
3. Ghetto-Related Behavior and the Structure of Opportunity
4. The Fading Inner-City Family
5. The Meaning and Significance of Race: Employers and Inner-City Workers

Part II: The Social Policy Challenge
6. The American Belief System Concerning Poverty and Welfare
7. Racial Antagonisms and Race-Based Social Policy
8. A Broader Vision: Social Policy Options in Cross-National Perspective

A. Perspectives on Poverty Concentration
B. Methodological Note on the Research at the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality
C. Tables on Urban Poverty and Family Life/Study Research