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Why Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist
Given the increasing diversity of the nation—particularly with respect to its growing Hispanic and Asian populations—why does racial and ethnic difference so often lead to disadvantage? In The Colors of Poverty, a multidisciplinary group of experts provides a breakthrough analysis of the complex mechanisms that connect poverty and race.The Colors of Poverty reframes the debate over the causes of minority poverty by emphasizing the cumulative effects of disadvantage in perpetuating poverty across generations. The contributors consider a kaleidoscope of factors that contribute to widening racial gaps, including education, racial discrimination, social capital, immigration, and incarceration. Michèle Lamont and Mario Small grapple with the theoretical ambiguities of existing cultural explanations for poverty disparities. They argue that culture and structure are not competing explanations for poverty, but rather collaborate to produce disparities. Looking at how attitudes and beliefs exacerbate racial stratification, social psychologist Heather Bullock links the rise of inequality in the United States to an increase in public tolerance for disparity. She suggests that the American ethos of rugged individualism and meritocracy erodes support for antipoverty programs and reinforces the belief that people are responsible for their own poverty. Sociologists Darren Wheelock and Christopher Uggen focus on the collateral consequences of incarceration in exacerbating racial disparities and are the first to propose a link between legislation that blocks former drug felons from obtaining federal aid for higher education and the black/white educational attainment gap. Joe Soss and Sanford Schram argue that the increasingly decentralized and discretionary nature of state welfare programs allows for different treatment of racial groups, even when such policies are touted as “race-neutral.” They find that states with more blacks and Hispanics on welfare rolls are consistently more likely to impose lifetime limits, caps on benefits for mothers with children, and stricter sanctions. The Colors of Poverty is a comprehensive and evocative introduction to the dynamics of race and inequality. The research in this landmark volume moves scholarship on inequality beyond a simple black-white paradigm, beyond the search for a single cause of poverty, and beyond the promise of one “magic bullet” solution.
American Schools and the Civic Development of Immigrant Youth
As one of the fastest-growing segments of the American population, the children of immigrants are poised to reshape the country’s political future. The massive rallies for immigration rights in 2006 and the recent push for the DREAM Act, both heavily supported by immigrant youth, signal the growing political potential of this crucial group. While many studies have explored the political participation of immigrant adults, we know comparatively little about what influences civic participation among the children of immigrants. Coming of Political Age persuasively argues that schools play a central role in integrating immigrant youth into the political system. The volume shows that the choices we make now in our educational system will have major consequences for the country’s civic health as the children of immigrants grow and mature as citizens. Coming of Political Age draws from an impressive range of data, including two large surveys of adolescents in high schools and interviews with teachers and students, to provide an insightful analysis of trends in youth participation in politics. Although the children of both immigrant and native-born parents register and vote at similar rates, the factors associated with this likelihood are very different. While parental educational levels largely explain voting behavior among children of native-born parents, this volume demonstrates that immigrant children’s own education, in particular their exposure to social studies, strongly predicts their future political participation. Learning more about civic society and putting effort into these classes may encourage an interest in politics, suggesting that the high school civics curriculum remains highly relevant in an increasingly disconnected society. Interestingly, although their schooling predicts whether children of immigrants will vote, how they identify politically depends more on family and community influences. As budget cuts force school administrators to realign academic priorities, this volume argues that any cutback to social science programs may effectively curtail the political and civic engagement of the next generation of voters. While much of the literature on immigrant assimilation focuses on family and community, Coming of Political Age argues that schools—and social science courses in particular—may be central to preparing the leaders of tomorrow. The insights and conclusions presented in this volume are essential to understand how we can encourage more participation in civic action and improve the functioning of our political system.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks opened America’s eyes to a frightening world of enemies surrounding us. But have our eyes opened wide enough to see how our experiences compare with other nations’ efforts to confront and prevent terrorism? Other democracies have long histories of confronting both international and domestic terrorism. Some have undertaken progressively more stringent counterterrorist measures in the name of national security and the safety of citizens. The Consequences of Counterterrorism examines the political costs and challenges democratic governments face in confronting terrorism.Using historical and comparative perspectives, The Consequences of Counterterrorism presents thematic analyses as well as case studies of Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, and Israel. Contributor John Finn compares post-9/11 antiterrorism legislation in the United States, Europe, Canada, and India to demonstrate the effects of hastily drawn policies on civil liberties and constitutional norms. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat and Jean-Luc Marret assert that terrorist designation lists are more widespread internationally than ever before. The authors examine why governments and international organizations use such lists, how they work, and why they are ineffective tools. Gallya Lahav shows how immigration policy has become inextricably linked to security in the EU and compares the European fear of internal threats to the American fear of external ones. A chapter by Dirk Haubrich explains variation in the British government’s willingness to compromise democratic principles according to different threats. In his look at Spain and Northern Ireland, Rogelio Alonso asserts that restricting the rights of those who perpetrate ethnonationalist violence may be acceptable in order to protect the rights of citizens who are victims of such violence. Jeremy Shapiro considers how the French response to terrorist threats has become more coercive during the last fifty years. Israel’s “war model” of counterterrorism has failed, Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger argue, and is largely the result of the military elite’s influence on state institutions. Giovanni Cappocia explains how Germany has protected basic norms and institutions. In contrast, David Leheny stresses the significance of change in Japan’s policies. Preventing and countering terrorism is now a key policy priority for many liberal democratic states. As The Consequences of Counterterrorism makes clear, counterterrorist policies have the potential to undermine the democratic principles, institutions, and processes they seek to preserve.
Social Categories, Social Identities, and Educational Participation
Since the end of legal segregation in schools, most research on educational inequality has focused on economic and other structural obstacles to the academic achievement of disadvantaged groups. But in Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities, a distinguished group of psychologists and social scientists argue that stereotypes about the academic potential of some minority groups remain a significant barrier to their achievement. This groundbreaking volume examines how low institutional and cultural expectations of minorities hinder their academic success, how these stereotypes are perpetuated, and the ways that minority students attempt to empower themselves by redefining their identities. The contributors to Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities explore issues of ethnic identity and educational inequality from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, drawing on historical analyses, social-psychological experiments, interviews, and observation. Meagan Patterson and Rebecca Bigler show that when teachers label or segregate students according to social categories (even in subtle ways), students are more likely to rank and stereotype one another, so educators must pay attention to the implicit or unintentional ways that they emphasize group differences. Many of the contributors contest John Ogbu’s theory that African Americans have developed an “oppositional culture” that devalues academic effort as a form of “acting white.” Daphna Oyserman and Daniel Brickman, in their study of black and Latino youth, find evidence that strong identification with their ethnic group is actually associated with higher academic motivation among minority youth. Yet, as Julie Garcia and Jennifer Crocker find in a study of African-American female college students, the desire to disprove negative stereotypes about race and gender can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and excessive, self-defeating levels of effort, which impede learning and academic success. The authors call for educational institutions to diffuse these threats to minority students’ identities by emphasizing that intelligence is a malleable rather than a fixed trait. Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities reveals the many hidden ways that educational opportunities are denied to some social groups. At the same time, this probing and wide-ranging anthology provides a fresh perspective on the creative ways that these groups challenge stereotypes and attempt to participate fully in the educational system.
Some social theorists claim that trust is necessary for the smooth functioning of a democratic society. Yet many recent surveys suggest that trust is on the wane in the United States. Does this foreshadow trouble for the nation? In Cooperation Without Trust? Karen Cook, Russell Hardin, and Margaret Levi argue that a society can function well in the absence of trust. Though trust is a useful element in many kinds of relationships, they contend that mutually beneficial cooperative relationships can take place without it. Cooperation Without Trust? employs a wide range of examples illustrating how parties use mechanisms other than trust to secure cooperation. Concerns about one’s reputation, for example, could keep a person in a small community from breaching agreements. State enforcement of contracts ensures that business partners need not trust one another in order to trade. Similarly, monitoring worker behavior permits an employer to vest great responsibility in an employee without necessarily trusting that person. Cook, Hardin, and Levi discuss other mechanisms for facilitating cooperation absent trust, such as the self-regulation of professional societies, management compensation schemes, and social capital networks. In fact, the authors argue that a lack of trust—or even outright distrust—may in many circumstances be more beneficial in creating cooperation. Lack of trust motivates people to reduce risks and establish institutions that promote cooperation. A stout distrust of government prompted America’s founding fathers to establish a system in which leaders are highly accountable to their constituents, and in which checks and balances keep the behavior of government officials in line with the public will. Such institutional mechanisms are generally more dependable in securing cooperation than simple faith in the trustworthiness of others. Cooperation Without Trust? suggests that trust may be a complement to governing institutions, not a substitute for them. Whether or not the decline in trust documented by social surveys actually indicates an erosion of trust in everyday situations, this book argues that society is not in peril. Even if we were a less trusting society, that would not mean we are a less functional one.
Government Reactions to the Great Recession
The financial crisis that erupted on Wall Street in 2008 quickly cascaded throughout much of the advanced industrial world. Facing the specter of another Great Depression, policymakers across the globe responded in sharply different ways to avert an economic collapse. Why did the response to the crisis—and its impact on individual countries—vary so greatly among interdependent economies? How did political factors like public opinion and domestic interest groups shape policymaking in this moment of economic distress? Coping with Crisis offers a rigorous analysis of the choices societies made as a devastating global economic crisis unfolded. With an ambitiously broad range of inquiry, Coping with Crisis examines the interaction between international and domestic politics to shed new light on the inner workings of democratic politics. The volume opens with an engaging overview of the global crisis and the role played by international bodies like the G-20 and the WTO. In his survey of international initiatives in response to the recession, Eric Helleiner emphasizes the limits of multilateral crisis management, finding that domestic pressures were more important in reorienting fiscal policy. He also argues that unilateral decisions by national governments to hold large dollar reserves played the key role in preventing a dollar crisis, which would have considerably worsened the downturn. David R. Cameron discusses the fiscal responses of the European Union and its member states. He suggests that a profound coordination problem involving fiscal and economic policy impeded the E.U.’s ability to respond in a timely and effective manner. The volume also features several case studies and country comparisons. Nolan McCarty assesses the performance of the American political system during the crisis. He argues that the downturn did little to dampen elite polarization in the U.S.; divisions within the Democratic Party—as well as the influence of the financial sector—narrowed the range of policy options available to fight the crisis. Ben W. Ansell examines how fluctuations in housing prices in 30 developed countries affected the policy preferences of both citizens and political parties. His evidence shows that as housing prices increased, homeowners expressed preferences for both lower taxes and a smaller safety net. As more citizens supplement their day-to-day income with assets like stocks and housing, Ansell’s research reveals a potentially significant trend in the formation of public opinion. Five years on, the prospects for a prolonged slump in economic activity remain high, and the policy choices going forward are contentious. But the policy changes made between 2007 and 2010 will likely constrain any new initiatives in the future. Coping with Crisis offers unmatched analysis of the decisions made in the developed world during this critical period. It is an essential read for scholars of comparative politics and anyone interested in a comprehensive account of the new international politics of austerity.
Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family
When state voters passed the California Marriage Protection Act (Proposition 8) in 2008, it restricted the definition of marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman. The act’s passage further agitated an already roiling national debate about whether American notions of family could or should expand to include, for example, same-sex marriage, unmarried cohabitation, and gay adoption. But how do Americans really define family? The first study to explore this largely overlooked question, Counted Out examines currents in public opinion to assess their policy implications and predict how Americans’ definitions of family may change in the future. Counted Out broadens the scope of previous studies by moving beyond efforts to understand how Americans view their own families to examine the way Americans characterize the concept of family in general. The book reports on and analyzes the results of the authors’ Constructing the Family Surveys (2003 and 2006), which asked more than 1,500 people to explain their stances on a broad range of issues, including gay marriage and adoption, single parenthood, the influence of biological and social factors in child development, religious ideology, and the legal rights of unmarried partners. Not surprisingly, the authors find that the standard bearer for public conceptions of family continues to be a married, heterosexual couple with children. More than half of Americans also consider same-sex couples with children as family, and from 2003 to 2006 the percentages of those who believe so increased significantly—up 6 percent for lesbian couples and 5 percent for gay couples. The presence of children in any living arrangement meets with a notable degree of public approval. Less than 30 percent of Americans view heterosexual cohabitating couples without children as family, while similar couples with children count as family for nearly 80 percent. Counted Out shows that for most Americans, however, the boundaries around what they define as family are becoming more malleable with time. Counted Out demonstrates that American definitions of family are becoming more expansive. Who counts as family has far-reaching implications for policy, including health insurance coverage, end-of-life decisions, estate rights, and child custody. Public opinion matters. As lawmakers consider the future of family policy, they will want to consider the evolution in American opinion represented in this groundbreaking book.
Research from the Mexican Migration Project
Discussion of Mexican migration to the United States is often infused with ideological rhetoric, untested theories, and few facts. In Crossing the Border, editors Jorge Durand and Douglas Massey bring the clarity of scientific analysis to this hotly contested but under-researched topic. Leading immigration scholars use data from the Mexican Migration Project—the largest, most comprehensive, and reliable source of data on Mexican immigrants currently available—to answer such important questions as: Who are the people that migrate to the United States from Mexico? Why do they come? How effective is U.S. migration policy in meeting its objectives? Crossing the Border dispels two primary myths about Mexican migration: First, that those who come to the United States are predominantly impoverished and intend to settle here permanently, and second, that the only way to keep them out is with stricter border enforcement. Nadia Flores, Rubén Hernández-León, and Douglas Massey show that Mexican migrants are generally not destitute but in fact cross the border because the higher comparative wages in the United States help them to finance homes back in Mexico, where limited credit opportunities makes it difficult for them to purchase housing. William Kandel’s chapter on immigrant agricultural workers debunks the myth that these laborers are part of a shadowy, underground population that sponges off of social services. In contrast, he finds that most Mexican agricultural workers in the United States are paid by check and not under the table. These workers pay their fair share in U.S. taxes and—despite high rates of eligibility—they rarely utilize welfare programs. Research from the project also indicates that heightened border surveillance is an ineffective strategy to reduce the immigrant population. Pia Orrenius demonstrates that strict barriers at popular border crossings have not kept migrants from entering the United States, but rather have prompted them to seek out other crossing points. Belinda Reyes uses statistical models and qualitative interviews to show that the militarization of the Mexican border has actually kept immigrants who want to return to Mexico from doing so by making them fear that if they leave they will not be able to get back into the United States. By replacing anecdotal and speculative evidence with concrete data, Crossing the Border paints a picture of Mexican immigration to the United States that defies the common knowledge. It portrays a group of committed workers, doing what they can to realize the dream of home ownership in the absence of financing opportunities, and a broken immigration system that tries to keep migrants out of this country, but instead has kept them from leaving.
Why Meanings Matter
In a multi-cultural society, differing worldviews among groups can lead to conflict over competing values and behaviors. Nowhere is this tension more concrete than in the wilderness, where people of different cultures hunt and fish for the same animals. White Americans tend to see nature as something external which they have some responsibility to care for. In contrast, Native Americans are more likely to see themselves as one with nature. In Culture and Resource Conflict, authors Douglas Medin, Norbert Ross, and Douglas Cox investigate the discord between whites and Menominee American Indians over hunting and fishing, and in the process, contribute to our understanding of how and why cultures so often collide. Based on detailed ethnographic and experimental research, Culture and Resource Conflict finds that Native American and European American hunters and fishermen have differing approaches—or mental models—with respect to fish and game, and that these differences lead to misunderstanding, stereotyping, and conflict. Menominee look at the practice of hunting and fishing for sport as a sign of a lack of respect for nature. Whites, on the other hand, define respect for nature more on grounds of resource management and conservation. Some whites believe—contrary to fact—that Native Americans are depleting animal populations with excessive hunting and fishing, while the Menominee protest that they only hunt what they need and make extensive use of their catch. Yet the authors find that, despite these differences, the two groups share the fundamental underlying goal of preserving fish and game for future generations, and both groups see hunting and fishing as deeply meaningful activities. At its core, the conflict between these two groups is more about mistrust and stereotyping than actual disagreement over values. Combining the strengths of psychology and anthropology, Culture and Resource Conflict shows how misunderstandings about the motives of others can lead to hostility and conflict. As debates over natural resources rage worldwide, this unique book demonstrates the obstacles that must be overcome for different groups to reach consensus over environmental policy.
Today, a third of American children are born outside of marriage, up from one child in twenty in the 1950s, and rates are even higher among low-income Americans. Many herald this trend as one of the most troubling of our time. But the decline in marriage does not necessarily signal the demise of the two parent family—over 80 percent of unmarried couples are still romantically involved when their child is born and nearly half are living together. Most claim they plan to marry eventually. Yet half have broken up by their child's third birthday. What keeps some couples together and what tears others apart? After a breakup, how do fathers so often disappear from their children's lives? An intimate portrait of the challenges of partnering and parenting in these families, Unmarried Couples with Children presents a variety of unique findings. Most of the pregnancies were not explicitly planned, but some couples feel having a child is the natural course of a serious relationship. Many of the parents are living with their child plus the mother’s child from a previous relationship. When the father also has children from a previous relationship, his visits to see them at their mother’s house often cause his current partner to be jealous. Breakups are more often driven by sexual infidelity or conflict than economic problems. After couples break up, many fathers complain they are shut out, especially when the mother has a new partner. For their part, mothers claim to limit dads’ access to their children because of their involvement with crime, drugs, or other dangers. For couples living together with their child several years after the birth, marriage remains an aspiration, but something couples are resolutely unwilling to enter without the financial stability they see as a sine qua non of marriage. They also hold marriage to a high relational standard, and not enough emotional attention from their partners is women’s number one complaint. Unmarried Couples with Children is a landmark study of the family lives of nearly fifty American children born outside of a marital union at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Based on personal narratives gathered from both mothers and fathers over the first four years of their children’s lives, and told partly in the couples' own words, the story begins before the child is conceived, takes the reader through the tumultuous months of pregnancy to the moment of birth, and on through the child's fourth birthday. It captures in rich detail the complex relationship dynamics and powerful social forces that derail the plans of so many unmarried parents. The volume injects some much-needed reality into the national discussion about family values, and reveals that the issues are more complex than our political discourse suggests.