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The Declining Significance of Race

Blacks and Changing American Institutions, Third Edition

Third Edition

When first published in 1980, The Declining Significance of Race immediately sparked controversy with its contentious thesis that race was becoming less of a deciding factor in the life chances of black Americans than class. This new edition of the seminal book includes a new afterword in which William Julius Wilson not only reflects on the debate surrounding the book, but also presents a provocative discussion of race, class, and social policy.

“The intellectual strength of this book lies in his capacity to integrate disparate findings from historical studies, social theory and research on contemporary trends into a complex and original synthesis that challenges widespread assumptions about the cause of black disadvantage and the way to remove it.”—Paul Starr, New York Times Book Review

“This publication is easily one of the most erudite and sober diagnoses of the American black situation. Students of race relations and anybody in a policy-making position cannot afford to bypass this study.”—Ernest Manheim, Sociology

272 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 1978, 1980, 2012

Black Studies

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations, Urban and Rural Sociology


“Wilson has written a profound and provocative book that is destined to become a classic in the field. He has articulated the issues with which future researchers will have to deal. Truly, he has made a contribution to social science.”

Wilson Record | American Journal of Sociology

“The publication of the original edition of The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions in 1978 was marked by intense debate and controversy. In the intervening period it is interesting to note that Wilson’s study has remained a key point of reference in debates about race in the context of American society. Both critics and supporters of Wilson have engaged in debate about the book’s key arguments. Indeed, in some ways the key concerns of Wilson’s classic book have become more relevant in the contemporary environment as questions about the role of race in shaping the experiences of African Americans have come to the fore in public policy debates.”

Ethnic and Racial Studies

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