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The Politics of Ethnic and Racial Inequality


In this a book in, J. Owens Smith offers the most definitive and scientific explanation to the old-aged question as to the cause(s) of ethnic and racial inequality. There have been many articles and books written on this topic, but all seemed to have fallen short of offering a systematic explanation for the causes of this inequality.

In this book, Smith developed a conceptual framework by which these causes can be explained on a systematic basis. His major argument is that groups do not make it to the middle class unless they acquire a certain amount of human capital.

Groups that have made it to the middle class in America have done so because they acquired such human capital in their homeland before immigrating or the government adopted various affirmative laws to assist them in acquiring it after immigrating to America.

Smith demonstrated that the major reason that African Americans have not made it to the middle class is that the government has refused to offer them the same level of protection in acquiring human capital as it has done for other groups. He marshalled forward a voluminous amount of data to support this argument. This book offers a definitive explanation to the questions that has historically raised concerning the causes of ethnic and racial inequality. This book has contributed immensely to the knowledge in this area of inquiry.


This book offers a scientific explanation to the cause of group inequality. It consists of a comparative macro-analysis of immigrant groups from the colonial period to the present. Specifically, this book explains why some groups are able to escape the slums and others do not.

Reviews (2)

2 reviews for The Politics of Ethnic and Racial Inequality

  1. The Politics of Ethnic and Racial Inequality is the most comprehensive analysis I’ve ever read. . . . . Every, I mean EVERY person of color should read this book. Especially, EVERY Afro-Ethnic studies department world-wide should make this book their reference guide!

  2. The Politics of Ethnic and Racial Inequality is a unique and comprehensive look at how politics played and continues to play a key role in the unequal distribution of income, wealth, and resources in this society. J. Owen Smith lays the seeds for the healing of those that have been oppressed and blamed for their victimized status by offering a counter narrative that disrupts the dominant message of victim blaming by tracing groups’ status differences historically. The Politics of Ethnic and Racial Inequality silences those who advocate that group success can be traced back to hard work and self-initiative. He offered compelling evidence that group upward mobility is highly contingent upon the level of government intervention or what he terms “bootstraps” (i.e., Affirmative Action).

    Most importantly Dr. Smith puts a dagger in the argument that affirmative action weakens groups and negatively impacts their self-esteem. He demonstrated how this argument was not used to describe the affirmative action policies the government adopted for white and other groups. These affirmative action policies came in the form of land grants, free education, job training, home loans, union rights, etc. These measures legally safeguarded these groups’ rights to achieve middle class status. African Americans were denied such protection by law.

    This work underscores the notion that inequality must be traced historically to understand the politics of racial inequality.

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