Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs

Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs

Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs

Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs


"Deirdre Royster's moving and engaging study convincingly and uniquely captures racial differences in school to work transition. Her data on and analysis of the differential employment experiences and outcomes of comparable young black and white working class males are very compelling. "Race and the Invisible Hand is an important book that will be widely read and cited."--William Julius Wilson, author of "The Bridge Over the Racial Divide "As acute in its analysis as it is rich in ethnographic detail, Royster's captivating study shows in telling detail how inequalities in the securing of good working class jobs are reproduced in the anything-but-colorblind contemporary United States."--David Roediger, author of "Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past

"An unflinching look at the experiences of young blue collar job-seekers on both sides of America's color line. This book powerfully demonstrates the hidden workings of racial discrimination today."--Chris Tilly, co- author of "Stories Employers Tell: Race, Skill, and Hiring in America

"Timely and challenging, this book exposes race as the key arbiter of employment outcomes for young black and white men. This beautifully written study is absolutely essential for policy makers, educators and researchers."--Mary Romero, author of "Maid in the USA

"An important study. As policymakers keep trying to improve blacks' employment opportunities with new versions of job training programs, Royster shows how irrelevant such efforts are as long as blacks lack access to essential social contacts."--James E. Rosenbaum, author of "Beyond College for All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half

"A powerful and original empirical account thatpersuasively demonstrates how visible hands invisibly reproduce racial inequality in the blue collar trades. Systematically comparing young black and white men who share the same educational credentials, grades, attendance recor


For generations, even centuries, the advice dispensed to young black males has been, “Get a trade. ” This nugget of folk wisdom has also dominated scholarly discourse on race from Booker T. Washington to William Julius Wilson. In 1881, Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute, which provided instruction in such trades as carpentry, farming, and mechanics. A century later, Wilson traced the problems of the black lower class to a deficit of education and skills that, he assumed, accounted for the success of the black middle class. Between Washington and Wilson scores of social scientists, working with massive databases, have argued that black-white differentials in income largely reflected differences in occupational skills. The implicit message: Get a trade.

Race and the Invisible Hand is a study about young black males who heeded the conventional wisdom. They enrolled in a trade school in Baltimore, Maryland, whose mission was to prepare students for entry into respectable blue-collar trades. Glendale Vocational High School offered tutelage in such quintessentially blue-collar subjects as auto mechanics, electrical construction, industrial electronics, brick masonry, carpentry, printing, and drafting. It is true that in 1989–90, the years in which they graduated, Baltimore's economy was undergoing a major restructuring, and jobs in blue-collar trades were in short supply. But . . .

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