Blog Archives

Reconsidering wealth, status, and power: Critical Demography and the measurement of racism

Sociologists have a long tradition of studying the effects of differentials in indicators of socioeconomic status by race. In fact, since Duncan’s classic study on poverty, differences on such indicators have often been considered a measure of the “cost of being black.” This paper employs the new paradigm in the study of population, Critical Demography, to develop a measure of racism based upon estimates of the differentials in wealth, status and power. Specifically, the study asks three questions: (1) How is racism measured relative to wealth, status and power in the United States? (2) Based upon this measure, how has racism changed over time? and (3) What are the theoretical implications of this measure for the study of race and ethnicity in sociology, demography and the social sciences in general? The findings provide evidence of Mertonian serendipity: once macro-level measures of racism are controlled, blacks actually exceed whites in levels of education, income and housing values. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of measuring racism from a Critical Demography perspective.

Racism, Rodeos, and the Misery Industries of Louisiana

Racism is a multilevel and multidimensional system whereby minority groups are oppressed and scapegoated by the dominant group. Claims that America has become a post-racial society notwithstanding, manifestations of racism are all around us, especiallyin the state of Louisiana. Louisiana is home to some of the poorest, and the leasteducated citizens in the nation. The state is also the site of one of the country’s mostnotorious prisons. Angola, a former—and present penal—plantation, is a majority black prison where the inmate ‘rodeo’ provides annual entertainment for largely whiteaudiences and hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplement services for prisoners thatcould arguably be paid for in less dehumanizing ways. White racial frame is a useful paradigm for understanding the linkages between mass incarceration, the exploitation ofthe Black body, the miseducation of Black youth, as well as the persistent racialeconomic inequality in Louisiana and in US society as a whole. We extend the idea of white racial frame further by introducing a concept we call “bridges to benefits”. Bridges to benefits are networks of white privilege, which flow between institutions, such as education, the economy, and the law, which involve capitalizing on the misery of Blacks while simultaneously protecting white supremacy.

Non-Married Women and Black Ethnicity: An Analysis of the Likelihood of Homeownership

The number of non-married women is on the rise in America and these women are making their presence known, especially where homeownership is concerned. Non-married women are among the fastest growing segment of first time home buyers. Despite these recent trends, few studies have examined the determinants of homeownership for this group. For the few studies that have not ignored this population, most examine differences between non-married Black and White females, but most do not address within group differences. The present study uses data from the 2000 decennial census to determine if ethnicity matters for non-married Black women. The results show that ethnicity explains some, but not all, of the variations of homeownership for non-married Black women

Beyond School-to-Prison Pipeline and Toward an Educational and Penal Realism

Much scholarly attention has been paid to the school-to-prison pipeline and the sanitized discourse of “death by education,” called the achievement gap. Additionally, there exists a longstanding discourse surrounding the alleged crisis of educational failure. This article offers no solutions to the crisis and suggests instead that the system is functioning as it was intended—to disenfranchise many (predominately people of color) for the benefit of some (mostly white), based on economic principals of the free market. We begin by tracing the economic interests of prisons and the prison industrial complex, juxtaposing considerations of what we call the “educational reform industrial complex.” With a baseline in the economic interests of school failure and prison proliferation, we draw on the critical race theory concept of racial realism, to work toward a theory of educational and penal realism. Specifically, we outline seven working tenets of educational and penal realism that provide promise in redirecting the discourse about schools and prisons empowering those interested in critically engaging issues of racism that permeate U.S. orientations to education and justice.

Debt to Society: Asset Poverty and Prisoner Reentry

Every year, millions of people exit American jails and prisons and attempt to reintegrate into society. Ex-offenders face many obstacles during the transition. Scholars contend that securing employment is central to a successful transition. A job that allows an ex-offender to earn an income above the poverty line is especially significant, recent studies have shown. Consequently, many prisoner reentry initiatives are focused on expanding employment opportunities for ex-offenders. However, the almost exclusive emphasis on employment as the measurement of economic well-being is short-sighted because it ignores the importance of financial education and asset ownership. Prisoner reentry programs should include an emphasis on financial education in addition to an emphasis on employment as a means of reducing recidivism rates and improving the economic well-being of the ex-offenders and receiving communities. The paper concludes with a discussion of policy implications.

Cashing in on the American Dream: Racial Differences in Housing Values 1970–2000

Home ownership represents much more than shelter; home ownership is also indicative of an individual’s or a group’s social and economic standing. Racial and ethnic differences have been observed not only in home ownership but also in housing values. The present study examines the extent to which differences in housing values between Asians, blacks, Hispanics and whites, and among black ethnic groups, can be attributed to race and ethnicity or to other sociological factors such as age, gender, marital status, region, occupational score, nativity, year of immigration and English proficiency. Changes in the determinants of housing values between 1970 and 2000 are assessed over time as well as changes in the level of inequality on housing values between whites and non‐whites. The findings reveal that the housing gap between whites and non‐whites over the past few decades has actually grown over time. As home values make up the largest component of the average American’s portfolio, these findings may be significant in understanding and explaining the persistence of the racial wealth gap in America.

The Battle over the Ex-Slave’s Fortune: The Story of Cynthia Hesdra

Few people are familiar with the name of Cynthia Hesdra. She was born a slave in the North During her lifetime though, she owned a successful laundry business and real estate in New York and New Jersey. She was also involved in the historic “underground railroad” station in Nyack, NY. She died at the age of 71 with a fortune estimated at around &100,000. By today’s standards she was a millionaire. Her family fought over her estate in a series of trials, which included a precedent setting trial involving handwriting analysis. The story of Cynthia Hesdra provided insight into the economic contributions of blacks in the North prior to the twentieth century. This article examines the life and times of Cynthis Hesdra and other blacks during her lifetime, using historic census data, court records, historic newspaper articles, and other sources. Initially, Cynthia Hesdra’s estate went to her husband, Edward, but the state would eventually take ownership of the ex-slave’s fortune.

A home of her own: an analysis of asset ownership for non-married black and white women

Race and gender are strong predictors of asset ownership including home ownership, self-employment and interest, dividends and rental income. Yet, seldom have the two concepts been linked in the socio-logical literature on wealth inequality. Additionally, potentially important determinants such as business income have often times been excluded from the analyses despite findings suggesting that business income may be an important indicator for racial and minority groups who would otherwise be regulated to employment in low status jobs in the secondary labor market.