Gingrich channels William Julius Wilson?

Illustrations from NY Review of Books, here and here.

Newt Gingrich, in Iowa, December 1, 2011:

Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods, have no habits of working, and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday, they have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of “I do this and you give me cash,” unless it’s illegal.

William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987):

Inner-city social isolation also generates behavior not conducive to good work histories. The patterns of behavior that are associated with a life of casual work (tardiness and absenteeism) are quite different from those that accompany a life of regular or steady work (e.g., the habit of waking up early in the morning to a ringing alarm clock). In neighborhoods in which nearly every family has at least one person who is steadily employed, the norms and behavior patterns that emanate from a life of regularized employment become part of the community gestalt. (p. 60)

Wilson tried to differentiate between the “culture of poverty” and “social isolation,” but the distinction often has not come through in the popular retelling of his work.

Perhaps coincidentally, Gingrich started on this pitch in a speech at Harvard, where Wilson is in the sociology department.

4 thoughts on “Gingrich channels William Julius Wilson?

  1. I’ve seen that culture of poverty with my own eyes. My parents, in different parts of the country, see it on a daily basis affecting rural whites and African-Americans.


  2. Let’s suppose that the reason kids don’t have good work habits is that they don’t see parents with good work habits, Gingrich’s solution is to have the kids got to work in jobs that require those habits. Another solution would be to make decent jobs available to the parents, which is what happened in the nineties. When adults have decent-paying jobs, they develop those work habits. But good work-habits aren’t very useful and don’t make much sense when work disappears. (Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the publication of “When Gingrich Disappears.”)


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