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David Gergen engages Dr. Wilson in a dialogue about his research and his ideas for lifting the inner city poor out of poverty.
More often than not, politicians, journalists and social activists paint simple portraits of the impoverished. The mostly-black residents of America's inner-cities, for example, are often depicted as deprived due either to
laziness or racism.
But in the book "When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor," Dr. William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist, creates a more complex picture of the forces shaping inner city neighborhoods.
While not denying that "ghetto" culture and racism are factors in urban poverty, Dr. Wilson believes the joblessness created by the loss of manufacturing jobs and the "suburbanization" of America, are in fact more responsible for the isolation and continued poverty of America's inner cities. The same shifts in the economy that make it difficult for all Americans to maintain their standard of living are hurting the inner city poor, Wilson says in his book, just at a much greater extent.
Wilson's solution: programs that fight poverty but also help the working and middle classes. Wilson is a proponent of work programs modeled after Depression-era projects that offered jobs to anyone who needed one. He also argues that the creation of universal health care, a national child care system and national education standards as well as improvements and expansions of public transportation and job training would make the jobs created in a new global economy accessible to the inner city poor. Furthermore, they would also help the struggling working and middle classes.
Questions and comments raised in the forum: