Sept. 18, 2008

New book dissects race-based disadvantage

Interim Provost David Harris has edited a volume of articles with Ann Chih Lin of the University of Michigan titled "The Colors of Poverty: Why Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist" (Russell Sage Foundation; 2008). Harris and Lin's article, "Why Is American Poverty Still Colored in the 21st Century?" leads off the book, which includes articles by 15 prominent scholars in a variety of disciplines.

"The Colors of Poverty" asks why racial differences continue to result in socio-economic disadvantages in the 21st century. Given substantial progress in civil rights and anti-discrimination policies -- as well as the increased ethnic diversity of the nation -- why is poverty still so colored? Why have racial differences in poverty persisted for so long -- and what can we do to confront them?

The book groups articles under three rubrics: group identity and group outcomes; nonracial explanations for racial disparities in poverty; and policy, race and poverty: intentions and consequences. It makes the case that poverty results not from a single source but from a cumulative process: any type of disadvantage makes one vulnerable to other disadvantages. Thus, no single policy can be expected to unravel it.