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The Downward Slide of Working-Class African American Men

Race, Identity and Work

ISBN: 978-1-78769-502-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-501-6

Publication date: 7 November 2018


The burgeoning sociological literature on African American/White men’s downward mobility has failed to examine dynamics at the working-class level and has not conducted analyses at the refined job level. Within the context of the minority vulnerability thesis, we address these shortcomings, and specifically utilizing data from the 2011–2015 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine racial difference in the incidence, determinants, and timing of downward mobility from two working-class job types, elite blue collar and rank-and-file jobs. Findings our expectation of ongoing, contemporary vulnerability: from both working-class origins, African Americans relative to Whites experience higher rates of downward mobility, experience it on a broad basis that is not explained by traditional stratification-based causal factors (e.g., human capital and job/labor market characteristics) and experience downward mobility more quickly. Further, these racial inequalities are pronounced at the elite blue-collar level, probably because of heightened practices of social closure when supervisory responsibility is at stake. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for understanding both the ongoing and future socioeconomic well-being of African Americans in the US.



Wilson, G. and Roscigno, V.J. (2018), "The Downward Slide of Working-Class African American Men", Race, Identity and Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 113-135.



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