Cover image for Being Black, living in the red : race, wealth, and social policy in America
Title:
Being Black, living in the red : race, wealth, and social policy in America
Author:
Conley, Dalton, 1969-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
viii, 209 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780520216723

9780520216730
Format :
Book

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Call Number
Material Type
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Status
Central Library E185.8 .C77 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

What is more important--race or class--in determining the socioeconomic success of the blacks and whites born since the civil rights triumphs of the 1960s? When compared to whites, African Americans complete less formal schooling, work fewer hours at a lower rate of pay and are more likely to give birth to a child out of wedlock and to rely on welfare. Are these differences attributable to race per se , or are they the result of differences in socioeconomic background between the two groups?

Being Black, Living in the Red demonstrates that many differences between blacks and whites stem not from race but from economic inequalities that have accumulated over the course of American history. Property ownership--as measured by net worth--reflects this legacy of economic oppression. The racial discrepancy in wealth holdings leads to advantages for whites in the form of better schools, more desirable residences, higher wages, and more opportunities to save, invest, and thereby further their economic advantages.

Dalton Conley shows how factoring parental wealth into a reconceptualization of class can lead to a different future for race policy in the United States. As it currently stands, affirmative action programs primarily address racial diversity in schooling and work--areas that Conley contends generate paradoxical results with respect to racial equity. Instead he suggests an affirmative action policy that fosters minority property accumulation, thereby encouraging long-term wealth equity, or one that--while continuing to address schooling and work--is based on social class as defined by family wealth levels rather than on race.


Summary

What is more important--race or class--in determining the socioeconomic success of the blacks and whites born since the civil rights triumphs of the 1960s? When compared to whites, African Americans complete less formal schooling, work fewer hours at a lower rate of pay and are more likely to give birth to a child out of wedlock and to rely on welfare. Are these differences attributable to race per se , or are they the result of differences in socioeconomic background between the two groups?

Being Black, Living in the Red demonstrates that many differences between blacks and whites stem not from race but from economic inequalities that have accumulated over the course of American history. Property ownership--as measured by net worth--reflects this legacy of economic oppression. The racial discrepancy in wealth holdings leads to advantages for whites in the form of better schools, more desirable residences, higher wages, and more opportunities to save, invest, and thereby further their economic advantages.

Dalton Conley shows how factoring parental wealth into a reconceptualization of class can lead to a different future for race policy in the United States. As it currently stands, affirmative action programs primarily address racial diversity in schooling and work--areas that Conley contends generate paradoxical results with respect to racial equity. Instead he suggests an affirmative action policy that fosters minority property accumulation, thereby encouraging long-term wealth equity, or one that--while continuing to address schooling and work--is based on social class as defined by family wealth levels rather than on race.


Author Notes

Dalton Conley is Director of the Center for Advanced Social Science Research and Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at NYU; he is also Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.


Dalton Conley is Director of the Center for Advanced Social Science Research and Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at NYU; he is also Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Many of the socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites in the U.S. have been attributed to differences in income. Several years ago, though, sociologists Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro suggested in their book Black Wealth/White Wealth that net financial assets can be used as a better indicator of the opportunities available to blacks and whites. Conley, an assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at Yale, goes way beyond this basic premise to argue that many of the inequities that exist between the two races are the result of gaping differences in accumulated family wealth. Moreover, he shows that when wealth is held constant, many differences diminish. Conley analyzes the reasons blacks own so much less property than whites. Without denying the impact of other factors, he suggests that his findings have major implications for social policies ranging from affirmative action to the privatization of social security. This book is based on Conley's dissertation, which was named best graduate thesis for 1996 by the American Sociological Association. --David Rouse


Choice Review

What role does wealth play in the discrimination African Americans face today? In this well-researched, readable work, Conley presents ample evidence supporting his arguments that wealth should be examined for its racial impact and, continuing William Julius Wilson's thesis, that social class is now the primary vehicle for inequality. Thus, Conley contends, affirmative action should be based on class rather than on race. The book presents a balanced account of both improvements and continuing subordination. Blacks are acquiring more education, professional careers, and income, but have achieved little increase in wealth and wealth-generating organizations, i.e., as of 1990, they owned only one percent of the nation's assets and 2.4 percent of businesses. Conley shows the importance of home ownership in building wealth, availability of good schools, job contacts, and reenforcing marriages. The book has some deficits. It over-emphasizes men. Further, Conley discusses families and assistance but neglects sex discrimination and the critical role of two wage earners in obtaining assets. Finally, the policy chapter is underdeveloped; the author should have included Jesse Jackson's efforts to integrate Wall Street. Despite these shortcomings, it is especially useful for classes in inequality and race/ethnic relations. Upper-division undergraduates and above. S. D. Borchert; Lake Erie College


Booklist Review

Many of the socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites in the U.S. have been attributed to differences in income. Several years ago, though, sociologists Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro suggested in their book Black Wealth/White Wealth that net financial assets can be used as a better indicator of the opportunities available to blacks and whites. Conley, an assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at Yale, goes way beyond this basic premise to argue that many of the inequities that exist between the two races are the result of gaping differences in accumulated family wealth. Moreover, he shows that when wealth is held constant, many differences diminish. Conley analyzes the reasons blacks own so much less property than whites. Without denying the impact of other factors, he suggests that his findings have major implications for social policies ranging from affirmative action to the privatization of social security. This book is based on Conley's dissertation, which was named best graduate thesis for 1996 by the American Sociological Association. --David Rouse


Choice Review

What role does wealth play in the discrimination African Americans face today? In this well-researched, readable work, Conley presents ample evidence supporting his arguments that wealth should be examined for its racial impact and, continuing William Julius Wilson's thesis, that social class is now the primary vehicle for inequality. Thus, Conley contends, affirmative action should be based on class rather than on race. The book presents a balanced account of both improvements and continuing subordination. Blacks are acquiring more education, professional careers, and income, but have achieved little increase in wealth and wealth-generating organizations, i.e., as of 1990, they owned only one percent of the nation's assets and 2.4 percent of businesses. Conley shows the importance of home ownership in building wealth, availability of good schools, job contacts, and reenforcing marriages. The book has some deficits. It over-emphasizes men. Further, Conley discusses families and assistance but neglects sex discrimination and the critical role of two wage earners in obtaining assets. Finally, the policy chapter is underdeveloped; the author should have included Jesse Jackson's efforts to integrate Wall Street. Despite these shortcomings, it is especially useful for classes in inequality and race/ethnic relations. Upper-division undergraduates and above. S. D. Borchert; Lake Erie College


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