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With the Wind at Their Backs

With the Wind at Their Backs <p>While interest in the relevance of the cumulative disadvantage perspective has continued to increase steadily over the past several decades, one domain important in the production of inequality has received relatively little attention in analyses of the accumulation of inequality across the life course, and that is the domain of race relations. Focusing on the United States, this chapter explores how federal policies have been designed and implemented to maintain and strengthen the socioeconomic patterning of the American racial hierarchy. It is clear that those who have sought to reinforce existing race-based power relations have had “the wind at their backs”—amplifying political and social interests focused on maintaining the status quo with generic social processes of inequality production. Beginning with Reconstruction and extending across the 20th century and into the present, the convergence of these factors has effectively undermined the prospects for Black workers and families to enjoy opportunities to accumulate resources. White Americans had the opportunity to accumulate wealth, and it has benefited their families for generations, while the opposite effect has happened for Black families who have been systematically excluded from building intergenerational wealth. We discuss several examples of such policies and practices over the past 150 years, including the early plan for “Forty Acres and a Mule,” the Southern Homestead Act, Social Security, the GI Bill, and contemporary predatory student-loan lending. Finally, we end with policy suggestions to address the cumulative disadvantage that Black Americans have been experiencing due to federal U.S. policies.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics Springer Publishing

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Publisher
Springer Publishing
Copyright
© 2020 Springer Publishing Company
ISSN
0198-8794
eISSN
1944-4036
DOI
10.1891/0198-8794.40.105
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<p>While interest in the relevance of the cumulative disadvantage perspective has continued to increase steadily over the past several decades, one domain important in the production of inequality has received relatively little attention in analyses of the accumulation of inequality across the life course, and that is the domain of race relations. Focusing on the United States, this chapter explores how federal policies have been designed and implemented to maintain and strengthen the socioeconomic patterning of the American racial hierarchy. It is clear that those who have sought to reinforce existing race-based power relations have had “the wind at their backs”—amplifying political and social interests focused on maintaining the status quo with generic social processes of inequality production. Beginning with Reconstruction and extending across the 20th century and into the present, the convergence of these factors has effectively undermined the prospects for Black workers and families to enjoy opportunities to accumulate resources. White Americans had the opportunity to accumulate wealth, and it has benefited their families for generations, while the opposite effect has happened for Black families who have been systematically excluded from building intergenerational wealth. We discuss several examples of such policies and practices over the past 150 years, including the early plan for “Forty Acres and a Mule,” the Southern Homestead Act, Social Security, the GI Bill, and contemporary predatory student-loan lending. Finally, we end with policy suggestions to address the cumulative disadvantage that Black Americans have been experiencing due to federal U.S. policies.</p>

Journal

Annual Review of Gerontology & GeriatricsSpringer Publishing

Published: Jul 26, 2020

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