Extending the boundaries and definition of the ghetto

  • Pattillo M
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While William Julius Wilson and I both write about ‘ghettos’, the places and people we study are not the same. Wilson’s ‘ghettos’ are places of concentrated poverty with high rates of joblessness. My definition includes such places and adds working- and middle-class black neighbourhoods as well. I argue that my usage of the term as the entirety of the spatially segregated and contiguous black community is more historically faithful and analytically powerful. Also, it is the configuration that Wilson employs when analysing ghettos of the past, but from which he departs when examining present-day ghettos. This shift obscures important facets of life in the ghetto of both historical periods: namely that 1) the World War II-era ghetto featured internal spatial stratification that divided poor from wealthier blacks, and 2) there remains socio-economic heterogeneity within contemporary segregated black communities as well as patterns of blocked mobility that perpetuate their ghetto status.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Black middle class
  • Chicago
  • Concentrated poverty
  • Ghetto
  • Racial segregation
  • William Julius Wilson

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  • Mary Pattillo

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