The New Gilded Age: The Critical Inequality Debates of Our Time

By David B. Grusky; Tamar Kricheli-Katz | Go to book overview

Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Public Policy

Mary C. Waters

A humbling exercise for anyone attempting to predict the future of American racial and ethnic inequality is the following. Imagine that it is 1910 and you are asked to predict the patterns of inequality in 2010. There are 92 million Americans, 10.2 million or 9 percent of whom are non-white. Of the non-whites, 9.8 million are blacks, another 266,000 are American Indians, and 114,000 are Japanese and Chinese. Immigration is at an alltime high—15 percent of the population is foreign-born, and in the nation’s largest cities the percentages are much higher. It has been forty-five years since the end of the Civil War, and the situation of African Americans has improved, but is still quite dire. Non-white illiteracy has fallen from 80 percent in 1870 to 30 percent by 1910, but African Americans remain very poor, 85–90 percent concentrated in the rural south, where Jim Crow racism is gaining rather than declining and much of the political and educational progress blacks made in the Reconstruction period after the Civil War has been rolled back. World War I, World War II, the Depression, and the Civil Rights movement, as well as the immigration restrictions put in

Mary C. Waters is the M. E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology at Harvard
University, where she has taught since 1986. Recent books include Coming of
Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the 21st Century
and The
Next Generation: The Children of Immigrants in Europe and North America
.
Her study of the children of immigrants in New York, Inheriting the City:
The Children of Immigrants Come of Age
, won several awards, including
the American Sociological Association 2010 Distinguished Contribution to
Scholarship.

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