Notes on :
Are jobs the solution? Loury, Glenn C. The Wilson Quarterly. Washington: Autumn 1996.Vol.20, Iss. 4; pg. 89, 4 pgs
1. Loury begins his critique of Wilson’s theories with this comment:
Wilson has received just about every honor available to a scholar of modern society, including a recent invitation to join the prestigious National Academy of Sciences-- a rare achievement among sociologists, whose work is often regarded by "hard" scientists as less than rigorous.
What is Loury’s point?
What are Wilson’s recommendations for government programs
to address the problems facing poor people in our inner cities?
a. greatly expanded public works to provide jobs of last resort,
b. employment training for unskilled or displaced adult workers,
c. universal and publicly provided health care,
d. greater tax credits for low-income workers,
e. and subsidized child care.
Wilson believes that these reforms can be made politically palatable because “[t]he instruments of policy most likely to improve the condition of the black poor will also benefit the white working class.”
3. What data has Wilson used to substantiate his theory that lack of jobs is at the core of the problems facing the inner city?
How does Loury manage to de-legitmize
this collection of sociological data?
First, Wilson has misused the data:
“How do individual behavioral problems interact with pathological cultural patterns and impediments to economic opportunity to produce intractable, multigenerational poverty?”
Wilson suggests that America blames individuals for poverty rather “structural problems for which society should take responsibility.”
“Wilson's data and proposed solutions are linked by his central
"scientific" claims: that the absence of "good jobs at good
wages" has precipitated social collapse, and that until employment
opportunities are restored in the central cities, the tragic disintegration
to be observed there will continue apace.”
4. How does Loury uses the data to support a conservative understanding of the nature of the problem:
a. the impact of drug trafficking on social cohesion,
b. the attitudes among men and women toward marriage and childbearing, or
c. the beliefs of employers about the work habits of various ethnic groups, Wilson's findings are invariably provocative and troubling.
a. Perhaps responsible men whose lives are already well organized are able to keep faith with both their employers and their families.
b. Perhaps people who place a high value on being self-supporting are not deterred from a couple hours' commute on a bus.
c. Perhaps women who are energetic and disciplined can hold down jobs while sustaining the kinds of relationships with friends and relatives that make informal child care possible.
d. The fact that most criminals are unemployed is not sufficient proof that unstable ghetto youths will prefer minimum-wage public employment to entry-level positions in the crack trade.
Furthermore, the experience of Hispanics in America casts
doubt on Wilson’s theories:
a. Exactly what interventions can counteract the impact on early-childhood cognitive development of bad parenting by ignorant and depressed teenage girls?
b. How can urban neighborhoods be rescued from criminally violent adolescents while also affording some prospect that the youths in question can be helped to construct-not reconstruct-decent lives?
c. What specific reforms are needed in the educational system before the underclass can become minimally competitive in the modern economy?
d. Can the seductive power of gangs, and more generally of degenerative ghetto culture, be neutralized?
e. Is there any way to fire the ambition of ghetto youths without resorting to the burnt-out ideologies of racial revolution or the pipe dreams of athletic or entertainment superstardom?
f. Is it possible to replace these fantasies with a healthier, more realistic assessment of individual life chances in this free and prosperous nation, which remains the leading destination of indigent people from around the world?