Our nation, at its best, pursues the ideal that what we look like and where we come from should not determine the benefits, burdens, or responsibilities that we bear in our society. Because we believe that all people are created equal in terms of rights, dignity, and the potential to achieve great things, we see inequality based on race, gender, and other social characteristics as not only unfortunate but unjust. The value of equality, democratic voice, physical and economic security, social mobility, a shared sense of responsibility for one another, and a chance to start over after misfortune or missteps -- what many Americans call redemption -- are the moral pillars of the American ideal of opportunity.
Many Americans of goodwill who want to reduce poverty believe that race is no longer relevant to understanding the problem, or to fashioning solutions for it. This view often reflects compassion as well as pragmatism. But we cannot solve the problem of poverty -- or, indeed, be the country that we aspire to be -- unless we honestly unravel the complex and continuing connection between poverty and race.
Since our country's inception, race-based barriers have hindered the fulfillment of our shared values and many of these barriers persist today. Experience shows, moreover, that reductions in poverty do not reliably reduce racial inequality, nor do they inevitably reach low-income people of color. Rising economic tides do not reliably lift all boats.
In 2000, after a decade of remarkable economic prosperity, the poverty rate among African Americans and Latinos taken together was still 2.6 times greater than that for white Americans. This disparity was stunning, yet it was the smallest difference in poverty rates between whites and others in more than three decades. And from 2001 to 2003, as the economy slowed, poverty rates for most communities of color increased more dramatically than they did for whites, widening the racial poverty gap. From 2004 to 2005, while the overall number of poor Americans declined by almost 1 million, to 37 million, poverty rates for most communities of color actually increased. Reductions in poverty do not inevitably close racial poverty gaps, nor do they reach all ethnic communities equally.
Poor people of color are also increasingly more likely than whites to find themselves living in high-poverty neighborhoods with limited resources and limited options. An analysis by The Opportunity Agenda and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council found that while the percentage of Americans of all races living in high-poverty neighborhoods (those with 30 percent or more residents living in poverty) declined between 1960 and 2000, the racial gap grew considerably. Low-income Latino families were three times as likely as low-income white families to live in these neighborhoods in 1960, but 5.7 times as likely in 2000. Low-income blacks were 3.8 times more likely than poor whites to live in high-poverty neighborhoods in 1960, but 7.3 times more likely in 2000.
These numbers are troubling not because living among poor people is somehow harmful in itself, but because concentrated high-poverty communities are far more likely to be cut off from quality schools, housing, health care, affordable consumer credit, and other pathways out of poverty. And African Americans and Latinos are increasingly more likely than whites to live in those communities. Today, low-income blacks are more than three times as likely as poor whites to be in "deep poverty" -- meaning below half the poverty line -- while poor Latinos are more than twice as likely.
The Persistence of Discrimination
Modern and historical forces combine to keep many communities of color disconnected from networks of economic opportunity and upward mobility. Among those forces is persistent racial discrimination that, while subtler than in past decades, continues to deny opportunity to millions of Americans. Decent employment and housing are milestones on the road out of poverty. Yet these are areas in which racial discrimination stubbornly persists. While the open hostility and "Whites Only" signs of the Jim Crow era have largely disappeared, research shows that identically qualified candidates for jobs and housing enjoy significantly different opportunities depending on their race.
In one study, researchers submitted identical résumés by mail for more than 1,300 job openings in Boston and Chicago, giving each "applicant" either a distinctively "white-sounding" or "black-sounding" name -- for instance, "Brendan Baker" versus "Jamal Jones." Résumés with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely than those with black-sounding names to receive callbacks from employers. Similar research in California found that Asian American and, especially, Arab American résumés received the least-favorable treatment compared to other groups. In recent studies in Milwaukee and New York City, meanwhile, live "tester pairs" with comparable qualifications but of differing races tested not only the effect of race on job prospects but also the impact of an apparent criminal record. In Milwaukee, whites reporting a criminal record were more likely to receive a callback from employers than were blacks without a criminal record. In New York, Latinos and African Americans without criminal records received fewer callbacks than did similarly situated whites, and at rates comparable to whites with a criminal record.
Similar patterns hamper the access of people of color to quality housing near good schools and jobs. Research by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows that people of color receive less information from real-estate agents, are shown fewer units, and are frequently steered away from predominantly white neighborhoods. In addition to identifying barriers facing African Americans and Latinos, this research found significant levels of discrimination against Asian Americans, and that Native American renters may face the highest discrimination rates (up to 29 percent) of all.
This kind of discrimination is largely invisible to its victims, who do not know that they have received inaccurate information or been steered away from desirable neighborhoods and jobs. But its influence on the perpetuation of poverty is nonetheless powerful.
The Present Legacy of Past Discrimination
These modern discriminatory practices often combine with historical patterns. In New Orleans, for example, as in many other cities, low-income African Americans were intentionally concentrated in segregated, low-lying neighborhoods and public-housing developments at least into the 1960s. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck and the levees broke, black neighborhoods were most at risk of devastation. And when HUD announced that it would close habitable public-housing developments in New Orleans rather than clean and reopen them, it was African Americans who were primarily prevented from returning home and rebuilding. This and other failures to rebuild and invest have exacerbated poverty -- already at high levels -- among these New Orleanians.
In the case of Native Americans, a quarter of whom are poor, our government continues to play a more flagrant role in thwarting pathways out of poverty. Unlike other racial and ethnic groups, most Native Americans are members of sovereign tribal nations with a recognized status under our Constitution. High levels of Native American poverty derive not only from a history of wars, forced relocations, and broken treaties by the United States but also from ongoing breaches of trust -- like our government's failure to account for tens of billions of dollars that it was obligated to hold in trust for Native American individuals and families. After more than a decade of litigation, and multiple findings of governmental wrongdoing, the United States is trying to settle these cases for a tiny fraction of what it owes.
The trust-fund cases, of course, are just the latest in a string of broken promises by our government. But focusing as they do on dollars and cents, they offer an important window into the economic status that Native American communities and tribes might enjoy today if the U.S. government lived up to its legal and moral obligations.
Meanwhile, the growing diversity spurred by new immigrant communities adds to the complexity of contemporary poverty. Asian American communities, for example, are culturally, linguistically, and geographically diverse, and they span a particularly broad socioeconomic spectrum.
Census figures from 2000 show that while one-third of Asian American families have annual incomes of $75,000 or more, one-fifth have incomes of less than $25,000. While the Asian American poverty rate mirrored that of the country as a whole, Southeast Asian communities reflected far higher levels. Hmong men experienced the highest poverty level (40.3 percent) of any racial group in the nation.
Race and Public Attitudes
Americans' complex attitudes and emotions about race are crucial to understanding the public discourse about poverty and the public's will to address it. Researchers such as Martin Gilens and Herman Gray have repeatedly found that the mainstream media depict poor people as people of color -- primarily African Americans -- at rates far higher than their actual representation in the population. And that depiction, the research finds, interacts with societal biases to erode support for antipoverty programs that could reach all poor people.
Gilens found, for instance, that while blacks represented only 29 percent of poor Americans at the time he did his research, 65 percent of poor Americans shown on television news were black. In a more detailed analysis of TV newsmagazines in particular, Gilens found a generally unflattering framing of the poor, but the presentation of poor African Americans was more negative still. The most "sympathetic" subgroups of the poor -- such as the working poor and the elderly -- were underrepresented on these shows, while unemployed working-age adults were overrepresented. And those disparities were greater for African Americans than for others, creating an even more unflattering (and inaccurate) picture of the black poor.
Gray similarly found that poor African Americans were depicted as especially dysfunctional and undeserving of assistance, with an emphasis on violence, poor choices, and dependency. As Gray notes, "The black underclass appears as a menace and a source of social disorganization in news accounts of black urban crime, gang violence, drug use, teenage pregnancy, riots, homelessness, and general aimlessness. In news accounts & poor blacks (and Hispanics) signify a social menace that must be contained."
Research also shows that Americans are more likely to blame the plight of poverty on poor people themselves, and less likely to support antipoverty efforts, when they perceive that the people needing help are black. These racial effects are especially pronounced when the poor person in the story is a black single mother. In one study, more than twice the number of respondents supported individual solutions (like the one that says poor people "should get a job") over societal solutions (such as increased education or social services) when the single mother was black.
This research should not be surprising. Ronald Reagan, among others, effectively used the "racialized" mental image of the African American "welfare queen" to undermine support for antipoverty efforts. And the media face of welfare recipients has long been a black one, despite the fact that African Americans have represented a minority of the welfare population. But this research also makes clear that unpacking and disputing racial stereotypes is important to rebuilding a shared sense of responsibility for reducing poverty in all of our communities.
Removing Racial Barriers
We cannot hope to address poverty in a meaningful or lasting way without addressing race-based barriers to opportunity. The most effective solutions will take on these challenges together.
That means, for example, job-training programs that prepare low-income workers for a globalized economy, combined with antidiscrimination enforcement that ensures equal access to those programs and the jobs to which they lead. Similarly, strengthening the right to organize is important in helping low-wage workers to move out of poverty, but it must be combined with civil-rights efforts that root out the racial exclusion that has sometimes infected union locals. And it means combining comprehensive immigration reform that offers newcomers a pathway to citizenship with living wages and labor protections that root out exploitation and discourage racial hierarchy.
Another crucial step is reducing financial barriers to college by increasing the share of need-based grants over student loans and better coordinating private-sector scholarship aid -- for example, funds for federal Pell Grants should be at least double current levels. But colleges should also retain the flexibility to consider racial and socioeconomic background as two factors among many, in order to promote a diverse student body (as well as diverse workers and leaders once these students graduate). And Congress should pass the DREAM Act, which would clear the path to a college degree and legal immigration status for many undocumented students who've shown academic promise and the desire to contribute to our country.
Lack of access to affordable, quality health care is a major stress on low-income families, contributing to half of the nation's personal bankruptcies. Guaranteed health care for all is critical, and it must be combined with protections against poor quality and unequal access that, research shows, affect people of color irrespective of their insurance status.
Finally, we must begin planning for opportunity in the way we design metropolitan regions, transportation systems, housing, hospitals, and schools. That means, for example, creating incentives for mixed-income neighborhoods that are well-publicized and truly open to people of all races and backgrounds.
A particularly promising approach involves requiring an "opportunity impact statement" when public funds are to be used for development projects. The statement would explain, for example, whether a new highway will connect low-income communities to good jobs and schools, or serve only affluent communities. It would detail where and how job opportunities would flow from the project, and whether different communities would share the burden of environmental and other effects (rather than having the project reinforce traditional patterns of inequality). It would measure not only a project's expected effect on poverty but on opportunity for all.
When we think about race and poverty in terms of the shared values and linked fate of our people, our approach to politics as well as policy begins to change. Instead of balancing a list of constituencies and identity groups, our task becomes one of moving forward together as a diverse but cohesive society, addressing through unity the forces that have historically divided us.
Essay and Homework Help On Sociology, Race & Ethnic Inequality
Write a 1,400-word essay by using sociological concepts and theories learned from lectures form that week on the topic:- Racial or ethnic inequality. Write an essay to formulate core arguments and extend discussions. A suggested structure of the essay includes the following main sections:
• Literature review
• Main arguments
• Summary In writing your essay, you may consider the following questions to check whether you are on the right track (this is not exhaustive but a rough guideline)
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Do you have a brief and clear introductory section? [It introduces what topic you talk about, why you choose this topic, the significance of examining this topic, how you will construct your essay, and so on] – Do you provide informative and relevant literature review? [This part may help you present the research background, showing what research has been done in this field, what are the major theoretical perspectives or core issues, whether there is any gap in existing research…]
1 – Do you raise a research question clearly and construct your arguments well? [The question should be based on your literature review and is expected to have theoretical significance or practical implication. To construct your arguments, you may use relevant concepts and theories from this subject as well as supportive materials from other sources. Do not extend your argument too broadly and without a focus…]
2 – Do you have a summary and discussion of your study? [What are your major viewpoints and findings? How well have you addressed your question? Do you have a conclusion? Does your study make any contribution and have any implication? Does it have any limitation…]
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Societies comprise of a variety of racial, cultural, and religious groups. In multiethnic societies, ethnic and racial diversity is apparent where ethnic conflict can be seen on existence on a continual basis for many generations. Today, only a few member countries out of more than 180 member nations of the United Nations are ethnically homogenous. Sociologists regard multi-ethnicity as the rule. Furthermore, the extent of such ethnic diversity is very large and even the largest group in such societies does not constitute even half of the overall population of that society. Racism has emerged as the major issue in multiethnic societies (Platt 2011). The research identifies the presence, effect and influence of racism in multiethnic societies whether multiethnic society has increased racism and how it affects ethnic minority groups.
Bailey, Loveman, and Muniz (2012) identify racial disparities in earnings of black people when compared to those classified as brown. As per the social constructionist theory, the term ‘race’ is regarded as the contextual and multidimensional social construct. A number of factors give way to the meaning of racial identification, such as self-perception, interactional cues, prevailing cultural understandings, and perception of others (Bailey, Loveman, and Muniz 2012). Ostine (2013) and Jarrett (2000) present the racial barriers that add a dimension to routine problems faced by immigrants in the US society. For Haitian immigrants in the US, colour of the skin suddenly becomes a major issue, and it is such an issue that the members of the race cannot overcome (Ostine 2013; Jarrett 2000).
Platt (2011) highlights inequality within the ethnic groups of the society. Implications of inequality within ethnic groups cannot be ignored for addressing the poverty of ethnic minority groups. Poverty and inequality tend to be interlinked even if they are distinct at the theoretical level. Presence of greater inequality is also the implication of heterogeneity among those who are designated as poor (Platt 2011).
Social scientists had maintained for many years that industrialization as well as the forces of modernization would play a role in diminishing the importance of race and ethnicity in heterogeneous societies. Social scientists felt that with the phenomenon of breakdown of small and particular social units, and the following emergence of large, impersonals institutions of bureaucracy, the loyalty and identity of people would be directed to the national state and identity. They had the notion that national identity would supersede the identity of belongingness to internal racial and ethnic communities (Marger 2006).
However, the contemporary world witnesses the opposite trend. In past several decades, various ethnic groups that were considered to be well absorbed in the national society have rejuvenated their cultural identity. In multiethnic societies, ethnic relations usually take the form of high competition and conflict. Popular media accounts of ethnic relations in countries such as the US and UK are generally the descriptions of violence and hostility. However, conflicts at intergroup level in multiethnic societies are not always observed. Discord and strife are not always the key characteristic of races in multiethnic societies. Accommodation and cooperation are also the characterization of ethnic relations (Bertrand and Haklai 2013; Jarrett 2000).
However, various ethnic groups are treated as per the ranking system of the groups in the multiethnic society as a result of which they get unequal amounts of valued resources of society- prestige, power, and wealth. Institutions automatically favour dominant groups, while the other ethnic groups, named as minorities remain in lower positions (Coretta 2011).
Booth, Leigh and Varganova (2010) study the variations of racial and ethnic discrimination across minority groups in Australia. They suggest that some minority groups suffer extreme forms of persecution both in the public places and at work. As per the conflict theories of race and ethnic stratification, the major reason of discrimination and racism is group conflict. The split labour perspective shows that occupational competition leads between new and old immigrants show leads to the outcome of ethnic hostilities and following division of the working class. Dominant classes or races are benefitted due to more access to the resources of the society (Booth, Leigh and Varganova 2010).
NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) position statement regarding racism, prejudice and discrimination also sheds a light on the discriminatory treatment of people against minority (Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination 2013). When racial inequalities are present in a society, it becomes difficult for racially subordinate groups to learn and thrive. For example, individuals belonging to historically marginalized racial groups may be regarded as less worthy or less intellectual or intelligent from those members belonging to the majority culture. In contrast to children and communities of minority culture, children or communities from the majority culture are allowed to maintain their valued status as well as established privileges. Provision of such privilege can have the outcomes in the form of better treatment and opportunities that others can afford within the system of education and other social institutions (Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination 2013).
The presence of racism harms everyone in the society, but it has the most negative and everlasting impact on individuals belonging to racial minority groups. Racial prejudice is the attitude or orientation of a particular group about the position of different types of racial groups existing within the social order. People from both majority and minority groups can adopt such attitudes of racial prejudice. Racial discrimination is adopted by the majority group in the form of overt or subtle actions, which leads to limitation of the opportunities for the minority group in the field of economy, society, politics and education. Stress related to discrimination has a direct association with depression. Stereotypes related to races become self-fulfilling prophecy that result in negative outcomes for the members of the multi-ethnic society (Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination 2013; Dustman and Theodoropoulos 2013).
Karlsen and Nazroo (2002) made an effort to explore the relationship between social class, racism, and health among people belonging to ethnic minority in England and Wales. The research concluded that varying ways in which racism can manifest itself like institutional discrimination, interpersonal violence, or socioeconomic disadvantage have independent derogatory effects on health irrespective of the health indicator used. Authors find out that the physical and mental health consequences of an assault that is racially motivated may be different from those consequences associated with the generally more subtle racism that people experience in their daily lives (Karlsen and Nazroo 2002).
Ethnic minority groups are the result of stratification and ranking system in multiethnic societies of the world. From the review of literature, it can be argued that racism and ethnic inequalities contribute to depression, stress and various other negative consequences for those who occupy the lower status in the social order (Karlsen and Nazroo 2002; Platt 2011; Coretta 2011).
As identified from the literature review, sociologists earlier thought that industrialization and capitalization would result in national identity rather than the inter-group identity. However, reverse has happened and all ethnic groups existing in multi-ethnic societies have reemphasized their cultural identity. The dominant groups in the society have access to all resources and facilities available, while the ethnic minority groups face the prejudice and discrimination in terms of automatic assumptions of the society stratification and order. They are considered less intelligent or intellectual. Institutional systems such as education field have not remained unaffected by such racial discrimination. Health has come out to be another highly noticeable consequence of ethnic inequalities and their effects on ethnic minorities in the society (Karlsen and Nazroo 2002).
Researchers have shown that discriminatory policies are entwined within the organizational structures. People belonging to ethnic minority groups have lower incomes and they are generally concentrated in geographic areas that are poor in terms of economy and environment (Platt 2011; Karlsen and Nagroo 2002). Although wide documentation of the relationship between health and social position is present in sociology research, little evidence is present on the level to which ethnic concentration of disadvantage is the outcome of institutional racism. Poverty and racial discrimination are also found to be interlinked in the literature review. However, as mentioned by Karlsen and Nagroo (2002), authors such as Nandi and Platt (2010), Brewer et al (2009) and Hills et al (2010) present the question that if income inequalities between groups matter, they might influence the overall inequality in the society. Nevertheless, inequality between groups makes a significantly less contribution to overall inequality.
It can be concluded from the research that differences and discrimination exist for ethnic minority group in a multi-ethnic society. Dominant ethnic groups tend to have comparatively large access to the resources of the society, while individuals belonging to minorities and facing racial discrimination have to face negative consequences in terms of limited access to resources and opportunities in the society overall. The limitation exists in terms of studying the question in the general context. Study of a specific society with further deep study of relationship existing between societal factors, such as poverty and health, and their relation to racial discrimination can further enhance the knowledge on the topic.
Bailey, S.R., Loveman, M. and Muniz, J.O. 2012. Measures of ‘‘Race’’ and the analysis of racial inequality in Brazil. Social Science Research, 13.
Bertrand, J. and Haklai, O. 2013. Democratization and Ethnic Minorities: Conflict or compromise. London: Routledge.
Booth, A., Leigh, A. and Varganova, E. 2010. Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment. [Online]. Available at: https://ftp.iza.org/dp4947.pdf [Accessed on: 14 October 2014].
Coretta, P. 2011. Institutional racism and ethnic inequalities: an expanded multilevel framework. Journal of social policy, 40 (01), 173-192.
Dustman, C. and Theodoropoulos, N. 2013. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctpb21/Cpapers/SubmissionOEP_June.pdf [Accessed on: 14 October 2014].
Jarrett, A.A. 2000. The Impact of Macro Social Systems on Ethnic Minorities in the United States. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Karlsen, S. and Nazroo, J.Y. 2002. Relation Between Racial Discrimination, Social Class, and Health Among Ethnic Minority Groups. Am J Public Health, 92(4), 624–631.
Marger, M.N. 2006. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. USA: Thomson Learning, Inc.
Ostine, R. 2013. Caribbean Immigrants and the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity: Limits of the Assimilation Perspective. [Online]. Available at: https://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/prba/perspectives/spring1998/rostine.pdf [Accessed on: 14 October 2014].
Platt, L. 2011. Inequality within ethnic groups. [Online]. Available at: https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/inequality-ethnicity-poverty-full.pdf [Accessed on: 14 October 2014].
Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination. 2013. [Online]. Available at: https://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/positionpapers/RacismPrejudice.pdf [Accessed on: 14 October 2014].
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