Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence

By Fred L. Pincus; Howard J. Ehrlich | Go to book overview

revitalization in which the role of government is all-important. The level of involvement varies substantially from city to city and from one period to another, and these variations affect the poor of all ethnic groups. They are more obvious for Latinos because so many live in states with a very short tradition of serious government help.


CONCLUSION

[We need to] respond directly to Wilson's work--to his conceptualization of an "underclass"; to his theory that urban poverty has become concentrated; that it has become concentrated as a result of the decline of the manufacturing sector and the out-migration of the middle class; and to his characterization of the underclass in relation to specific behaviors. But it is clear that to apply Wilson's analysis to the Latino situation requires considerable adaptation of the original formulation. For example, there is little debate that the nation as a whole has been profoundly affected by economic restructuring. But matters become more complicated when one looks at any given city--no matter what subpopulation is of concern--and even more complicated when one looks at Latinos. Again, though immigration is a relatively minor concern in understanding Wilson's subjects, it is a major phenomenon in most Latino communities, and is closely tied in with economic restructuring. It has a major bearing on Latino poverty. Finally, for Wilson urban space is largely a matter of "concentration effects", but for many communities matters become much more complex.

In sum, [we] conclude that economic restructuring has been critical in increasing poverty in Latino communities. But the emphasis is on the complexity of economic restructuring rather than on the constriction of the manufacturing sector alone. [Our studies] show how new Latino immigrants help to revitalize and stabilize impoverished Latino communities. They show how Latino communities may serve different ecological functions in the city--some as buffer zones between poor black and more affluent white communities, some as targets for gentrification. Although these studies document poverty and many problems, they do not portray the severe urban decay that Wilson describes in Chicago's ghettos. Some of the studies portray thriving ethnic enclaves with businesses owned by Latino residents, and strong interhousehold networks that cross class boundaries and mediate the effects of poverty. Finally, most authors describe poor Latino residents who are strongly attached to the labor market. Many of those who are unemployed are actively searching for work. Others are employed in the informal sector; there they work for wages so low it keeps them living below the poverty line. Still others are employed in the underground economy.

The "new poverty" described so effectively by Wilson for the black population of deindustrialized Chicago is directly applicable only to the New York and Chicago Puerto Rican communities [we discussed]; the deindustrialization framework simply does not work in cities that were never industrialized to begin with. Nevertheless, these studies indicate that national economic restructuring has affected all cities, even those most peripheral to mainstream trends. Again, immigration is of major importance even where there has not been deindustrial-

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