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William Julius Wilson
Born December 20, 1935 (1935-12-20) (age 74)
Nationality American
Fields Sociology
Institutions Harvard University
University of Chicago
Alma mater Washington State University

William Julius Wilson (born December 20, 1935) is an American sociologist. He worked at the University of Chicago 1972-1996 before moving to Harvard.

William Julius Wilson is Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. He is one of only 19 University Professors, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member. After receiving a Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1966, Wilson taught sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, before joining the University of Chicago faculty in 1972. In 1990 he was appointed the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Urban Inequality. He joined the faculty at Harvard in July 1996. He is affiliated with the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Wilson was an original board member of the progressive Century Institute, and a current board member at Philadelphia-based Public/Private Ventures.

Contents

Honors

Past President of the American Sociological Association, Wilson has received 41 honorary degrees, including honorary doctorates from Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins University, Bard College, Dartmouth College, and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. A MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987 to 1992, Wilson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine, and the British Academy. In June 1996 he was selected by Time magazine as one of America's 25 Most Influential People. He is a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States, and was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize in the Social Sciences by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.

Other honors granted to Wilson include the Seidman Award in Political Economy (the first and only noneconomist to receive the Award); the Golden Plate Achievement Award; the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Washington State University; the American Sociological Association's Dubois, Johnson, Frazier Award (for significant scholarship in the field of inter-group relations); the American Sociological Association's Award for Public Understanding of Sociology; Burton Gordon Feldman Award ("for outstanding contributions in the field of public policy") Brandeis University; and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Award (granted by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Los Angeles).

Professor Wilson is a member of numerous national boards and commissions, and was previously the Chair of the Board of The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and of the Russell Sage Foundation.

Published works

He is the author of numerous publications including The Declining Significance of Race, winner of the American Sociological Association's Sydney Spivack Award; The Truly Disadvantaged, which was selected by the editors of the New York Times Book Review as one of the 16 best books of 1987, and received The Washington Monthly Annual Book Award and the Society for the Study of Social Problems' C. Wright Mills Award; When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, which was selected as one of the notable books of 1996 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review and received the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award; and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics. He is the co-author of There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America and Good Kids in Bad Neighborhoods: Successful Development in Social Context.

In The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions (1978) Wilson argues that the significance of race is waning, and an African-American's class is comparatively more important in determining his or her life chances. In The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987), Wilson was one of the first to enunciate at length the "spatial mismatch" theory for the development of a ghetto underclass. As industrial jobs disappeared in cities in the wake of global economic restructuring, and hence urban unemployment increased, women found it unwise to marry the fathers of their children, since the fathers would not be breadwinners. In "the Truly Disadvantaged" Wilson also argued against Charles Murray's theory of welfare causing poverty.

In Wilson's most recent book, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009), he directs his attention to the overall framing of pervasive, concentrated urban poverty of African Americans. He asks the question, "Why do poverty and unequal opportunity persist in the lives of so many African Americans?" In response, he traces the history and current state of powerful structural factors impacting African Americans, such as discrimination in laws, policies, hiring, housing, and education. Wilson also examines the interplay of structural factors and the attitudes and assumptions of African Americans, European Americans, and social science researchers. In identifying the dynamic influence of structural, economic, and cultural factors, he argues against either/or politicized views of poverty among African Americans that either focus blame solely on cultural factors or only on unjust structural factors. He tries "to demonstrate the importance of understanding not only the independent contributions of social structure and culture, but also how they interact to shape different group outcomes that embody racial inequality." Wilson's goal is to "rethink the way we talk about addressing the problems of race and urban poverty in the public policy arena." [1]

Criticism of his work

A revision of Wilson's theories was postulated in Still the Promised City by Roger Waldinger, a professor of Sociology at the University of California in Los Angeles. Waldinger noticed that other minorities do much better than African-Americans, and suggested that second and third -generation northern African-Americans are hampered by overhigh salary expectations, and the inability to find an economic niche. [2]

See also

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Julius Wilson (born December 20, 1935) is a leading professor of sociology, and is currently a Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University, after working at the University of Chicago from 1972-1996.

Sourced

  • A lot of joblessness in the black community doesn't seem to be reachable through fiscal and monetary policies. People have not been drawn into the labor market even during periods of economic recovery. Our study clearly shows that employers would rather not hire a lot of workers from the inner city. They feel people from the inner city are not job-ready, that the kids have been poorly educated, that they can't read, they can't write, they can't speak.
    • Interview with Mother Jones magazine, September/October 1996 issue. [1]
  • Affirmative action has to be combined with a broader program of social reform that would emphasize social rights: the right to employment, the right to education, the right to good health. Over the years, black leaders have been slow to recognize the need for a very, very progressive agenda. Anytime someone has talked about putting America back to work, blacks should have said yes, but they didn't. They were so preoccupied with affirmative action that they didn't provide the kind of leadership that would help some of the other progressive folks. Only now are black leaders beginning to realize the impact of economic issues.
    • Interview with Mother Jones
  • Liberals were intimidated by the Reagan administration and did not want to appear naive by talking about programs that called for government support. I just said, 'The hell with that. I'm out there. I'm exposed with this book.'
    • Interview with Mother Jones
  • Racism should be viewed as an intervening variable. You give me a set of conditions and I can produce racism in any society. You give me a different set of conditions and I can reduce racism. You give me a situation where there are a sufficient number of social resources so people don't have to compete for those resources, and I will show you a society where racism is held in check. If we could create the conditions that make racism difficult, or discourage it, then there would be less stress and less need for affirmative action programs. One of those conditions would be an economic policy that would create tight labor markets over long periods of time. Now does that mean that affirmative action is here only temporarily? I think the ultimate goal should be to remove it.
    • Interview with Mother Jones
  • The problems we see today are going to be a hell of a lot worse in 10 years if we're not willing to face up to them. These kids are just not going to be absorbed into the economy, so what are they going to be doing? Well, we know. They're going to be making life pretty miserable for a lot of people.
    • Interview with Mother Jones

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