Towards a proper interpretation of the declining significance of race thesis

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This essay takes a step towards establishing a more informed dialogue about race/class dynamics in structuring the life chances of blacks in contemporary America by revisiting William Wilson's declining significance of race thesis, the most important sociological theory that addresses this issue. Specifically, it explicates the thesis and critiques labour market analyses that purport to examine it. Too often mis-specifications of the parameters of the thesis and the absence of seriously engaging its historical and structural-level subtleties have produced erroneous interpretations including, most conspicuously, that Wilson denies any role to prejudice/discrimination in structuring life chances of blacks. I maintain that better capturing the parameters of Wilson's argument and engaging its subtleties is critical to moving forward in establishing an informed and more consensually held understanding of race/class dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1271-1277
Number of pages7
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 21 2015


  • declining significance of race
  • labour markets
  • life chances
  • race
  • racial inequality
  • stratification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Anthropology


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