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Long Time Coming Racial InequaHty in the NonmetropoHtan South, 1940—1990 By Mark A. Fossett and M. Thérèse Seibert Westview Press, 1997 284 pp. Cloth, $56.00 Reviewed by Robert A. MargO, who teaches in die department of economics and business administration at Vanderbilt University. The perceived wisdom among white Americans is that racial discrimination against African Americans is more a thing of the past than the present. The CivU Rights movement and associated antidiscrimination legislation demoHshed the main piHars ofJim Crow—dejure segregation and disenfranchisement—producing a discrete expansion in economic, social, and poHtical opportunity. Black people no longer sit at the back ofthe bus or drink from separate water fountains. In certain spheres—professional sports and popular music being the most obvious examples—racial progress is apparent to anyone with a television set or a stereo. With equaHty of opportunity now assured, so the story goes, there is no more need for "affirmative action," a poHcy many whites view as fundamentaUy inconsistent widi die moral principles put forth by Martin Luther King and his foUowers . For now, at least, the economy is roaring along and there is record-low unemployment . How can the Man be keeping people down, when diere is so much work to go around? As a group, African Americans, along with a large chunk of social scientists, seem to have a less whiggish take on racial progress. The social science perspective is amply expressed in Long Time Coming. Fossett and Seibert, who are sociologists , undertake a statistical examination of racial inequaUty in the nonmetropoUtan South in the half-century since 1940. Broadly speaking, die issues are whether racial inequaUty has, in fact, narrowed and, if so, if die narrowing was more or less continuous over time, or concentrated in the post-1960 period— diat is, after the Civil Rights movement took hold. Data are drawn from the pubHshed 1940 through 1990 federal censuses. Long Time Coming is divided into an introduction, five substantive chapters, a conclusion, and diree appendices. The introduction provides an overview ofthe book and a justification for it. The justification is that whiggish views of racial 86 Reviews progress are based on aggregate, national-level data. Fossett and Seibert remind us, however, that the movement of blacks out of the rural South was a major reason why the racial status gap narrowed nationaUy. This population redistribution was played out by 1 970 and, not accidentaUy according to the authors, progress in reducing racial inequaUty slowed thereafter. A more tempered view of the possibiUties for racial progress can be gleaned, die authors beUeve, by examining patterns of inequaUty change in smaU areas, specificaUy the source location of so many migrants—the rural South. By examining the evolution ofracial inequaUty at the "community-level," Fossett and Seibert beUeve they can explore various theories ofracial inequaUty that have been neglected in studies based on individuallevel data. Chapters 2 and 3 theorize about the various independent variables—for example , racial composition, percent manufacturing, percent white coUar, and so on—and also introduce the main indicator of racial inequaUty, occupational status . "Communities" are identified with counties. The authors discuss how they attempted to create a random sample of 300 nonmetropoHtan southern counties, which, because of data problems, was whittled down to 267 in the final analysis. Each county is observed at five census dates (1940 to 1990), providing a unique "longitudinal" window on racial change. Chapter 4 reviews summary statistics. The racial gap in years of schooling narrowed significantly between 1940 and 1990. Yet, Fossett and Seibert found virtuaUy no change in racial inequaUty in famUy incomes from 195o to 1990. The faüure of racial inequaUty to decHne between 1950 and 1990, however, was largely due to adverse trends in the 1980s. InequaUty did narrow from 1950 to 1980. The chapter also presents statistics on occupational status (by race and gender) and on the various independent variables discussed in chapters 2 and 3. With respect to occupational status, the key finding is that racial inequaUty (for males) rose between 1940 and i960, but feU thereafter. Chapters 5 and 6 are the heart ofthe book. Chapter 5 presents a cross-sectional regression analysis of occupational...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 86-88
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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