The decline of male employment in low-income black neighborhoods, 1950-1990

Lincoln Quillian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Many urban theorists, notably W.J. Wilson, hypothesize that rates of male joblessness in low-income urban neighborhoods have increased since the 1960s. This paper examines this claim by tabulating male employment trends in census tracts in 49 metropolitan areas from 1950 to 1990, and models causes of these trends. The results show a marked decline in the employment of working-age men in low-income black tracts, both in absolute terms and relative to the employment rates of male residents of other types of tracts. This decline occurred among cities in all regions of the country. By 1990, more than 40% of working-age black men in low-income tracts were not employed, about two-thirds of whom were adults between the ages of 25 and 64. Models indicate that declining urban manufacturing employment contributed to the declining rates of work for black men in low-income neighborhoods, but they do not support explanations based on spatial mismatch, suburbanization, or black out-migration. The paper concludes that Wilson is right to focus on the employment problem of low-income black neighborhoods, and that black male joblessness in low-income neighborhoods in 1990 reached crisis levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-250
Number of pages31
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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