Locked in the Poorhouse: Cities, Race and Poverty in the United States

Edited by Fred R. Harris and Lynne A. Curtis.

Rowman and Littlefield


ISBN 0 7425 0904 4

After the cities of the US erupted in sustained waves of rioting
in the late 1960s a presidential commission made an incisive
analysis of how the forces – poverty, racism and class – combined
to produce the crisis. The Kerner report is considered a landmark
still in American social policy.

This volume, with contributions from a cluster of the most
progressive social scientists in the US, charts what went wrong in
the 30 years since the Kerner report’s publication.

William Julius Wilson and Paul Jargowsky explain in their
chapters how the poverty of black America and the formation of
black ghettos accelerated in the 1980s. Elliot Currie examines how
young black males and women suffer high rates of incarceration with
the long-term effect of undermining families and communities and
diverting public resources toward a gigantic correctional system.
Greg Duncan and Jean Gunn Brookes discuss the research charting the
effects of poverty on child development.

Collectively they nail the falsehood that the policies pursued
by the federal government did not work. The combination of
affirmative action, the Head Start programme for poor children,
equal opportunity rules in contracting and government employment,
and vigorous job creation did lift many out of poverty but was
undone by a rising tide of anti-federal politics.

The contributors outline their own bold programme for the
future. This includes generating over a million public sector jobs
with federal dollars, huge investments in Head Start and youth
opportunity including the reform of the urban school systems, and
renewed commitment to affirmative action. They also urge building
political alliances to carry these issues forward. These are as
progressive a set of policies as we have heard in a long while. It
just may be that the American public is now more willing to listen
as it sees the social effects of the Bush administration’s
uncompromising conservative agenda emerge.

John Pierson is senior lecturer, Institute of Social
Work, Staffordshire University.

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