HKS Conference Focuses on “The Truly Disadvantaged”, Poverty, Race and Inequality

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Twenty-five years after the publication of Professor William Julius Wilson’s groundbreaking book, “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy,” Wilson and more than 20 leading social science scholars from throughout the country will gather September 14 at Harvard University.  The one-day conference, organized by Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) Malcolm Wiener Center on Social Policy, will focus on the latest thinking on poverty and economic inequality as outlined by Wilson in the afterword of his book’s second edition (The University of Chicago Press, 2012).

“By and large, the conditions described in The Truly Disadvantaged are not qualitatively different twenty-five years later,” Wilson writes. “There are still major racial differences in concentrated poverty… Unemployment and individual poverty rates have increased since 2000, and there is every reason to assume that concentrated poverty rates are on the increase again.”

“There is of course the Great Recession and its aftermath — the current period of very high unemployment, long-term joblessness, and foreclosures. And the surprising election of a black president should certainly be noted,” Wilson continues. “These changes notwithstanding, the basic arguments in The Truly Disadvantaged are as relevant and important today as they were when the book was published.”

Conference panels will explore a range of issues including: deindustrialization and joblessness; neighborhood inequality and the concentration of social dislocations; family structure and social change; race and segregation; and the state and the politics of inequality.

Conference participants include:

·         Mary Jo Bane, Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management, HKS; former assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;

·         Barry Bluestone, dean, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University;

·         Lawrence Bobo, W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University;

·         Kathryn Edin, professor of public policy and management, HKS;

·         David Ellwood, dean, Harvard Kennedy School; former assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;

·         Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, HKS;

·         Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics, Harvard University;

·         Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University;

·         Orlando Patterson, John Cowles Professor of Sociology, Harvard University;

·         Robert Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University;

·         Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University;

·         Mario Small, dean, Social Sciences Division, University of Chicago; author of “Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio”;

·         Sudhir Venkatesh, Williams B. Ransford Professor of Sociology, Columbia University;

·         Bruce Western, director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, HKS; author of “Punishment and Inequality in America.”

The conference begins at 8:30 am with opening remarks to be delivered by Professors Western and Wilson. Conference sessions will take place at Harvard Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS), South Building, concourse level, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge. This event is co-sponsored by the W.E.B DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, the Department of African and African American Studies, and the Department of Sociology at Harvard University.