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Race and Social Class

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The relationship existing between race and social class has been critically illustrated as a factor of an inherent discrimination in the skin color intensities illustrated by various racial groups. Bodkin in his work illustrating how Jews become whites endorses this assertion. Bodkin illustrates the racial discrimination faced by Semitic immigrants to the United States during the pre world war period. The Jews were extensively segregated in schools and work environments during this period in contrast to other European immigrants (Bodkin 33). These critically affected their entry into the middle or higher social structures. However, their social dispensation would critically be transformed during and after World War II.

The post World War II period saw the enforcement of affirmative action which significantly favored Semitic immigrants in social-economic terms. The Jewish people were able to access schools and jobs perceived as white jobs in the middle class work structures. The implementation of the GI Bill factored critically in enabling Jewish entry into the middle class while enabling them to acquire property in the “white” neighborhoods (Bodkin 37). While the Jewish people enjoyed their new found social position, African-Americans remained significantly discriminated and marginalized to the lower social classes. The African-American were discriminated against benefiting from the provisions of the GI Bill; therefore, they were discriminated against in school and work placements. Hence, the blacks were restricted in their attempts to acquire education, work or property.


Portes observes the difficulties faced by immigrants and their children in assimilating into American social structures. He highlights the potential human capital represented by the immigrant races; however, the difficulties associated with their absorption into the American Social classes inhibit their entry into the job market. Portes is of the opinion that the degree of skin color in relation to whiteness is critical in determining an individual’s entry into the American social classes (Portes 47). He observes the darker the skin the more difficult it is for immigrants to acquire a position in the American social classes.

The assimilation of immigrants depends on the established immigrant networks and family structures; therefore, entry into the work environment and eventual entry into middle classes is characterized by individual attributes and immigrant social networks in place. Significantly, second-generation immigrant’s assimilation into the American social circles is critical to their mode and levels of acculturation (Portes 54). These are critical in determining the upward or downward assimilation into the social classes. While racial factors are significant determinants in job placements and entry into social classes, language, education and technical skills possessed are essential in assimilation into the American social classes and the labor markets.


Class determination on the basis of the availability or lack thereof of wealth, has been critically evaluated by Conley. He perceives the extensive social disparity between the white and African-Americans as a factor of wealth (Conley 1). Conley illustrates the difficulty of class attainment on the basis of wealth for the African-Americans. He illustrates that despite the similarities in education and incomes with their white counterparts; African-Americans are faced by significant barriers in their attempts to acquire financing for property acquisition (Conley 6). Racial discrimination by financial and property institutions has contributed to the segregation of the black communities to neighborhoods referenced as “red taped” areas. These are characterized by impoverished African-American neighborhoods. The properties values in these regions are lowered while the properties in white dominated neighborhoods are significantly raised. This makes it be impossible for low-income earning African-American families to acquire property in these regions.

Conley asserts that assets are determinants of social placements in the American class structures irrespective of racial profiling (Conley 15). However, the African-American’s are disadvantaged in their wealth possessions; given their cultural and social-economic history. However, those who are able to acquire assets are perceived as belonging to the  middle or upper classes; in lieu of the extent of their wealth and influence in the social structures. Despite the classification of white and black neighborhoods as such, Conley observes that Black neighborhoods are significantly inter-racial neighborhoods comprising of immigrant races and African-Americans. However, despite this racial composition, the African-Americans indicate the poorest social-economic progress.


The aspects of race in determining social class have been critically examined by Bodkin, Portes and Conley. There is evidence of significant consensus in their literatures in illustrating racial segregation in class entry. The placement of educational standards in class entry has been emphasized by Bodkin in his illustration of the Jewish transformation from a discriminated race in the American social structures to an assimilated indistinguishable white race. Education is characterized as a means in which class can be acquired. Bodkin’s illustration of education as a crucial strategy employed by the Jews in their struggle to enter into the prominent American social circles (Bodkin 34); is reinforced by the assertions of Portes. Portes indicates that the immigrant races are characterized by significant uneducated populace; however, those in possession of educational or technical skills have higher affinities of upward assimilation into the middle classes. However, this is dependent upon the established immigrant society and networks in the American society (Portes 46).

While education is a contributing factor towards social class entry, Conley’s observation of class in educational aspects differs from Bodkin and Portes. Conley perceives class entry as a factor of wealth despite the educational level or income levels attained. He compares White and African-American families in the same educational and income bracket; where he illustrates the effects of wealth towards social class placement in respect to racial segregation factors. Hence, in a social setting factoring Whites and blacks, Conley illustrates education as irrelevant in class entry or determination of an individual’s social class. He illustrates a class as a social institution which can be entered on the basis of wealth or assets possessed and their influence in the prevailing social-economic environment (Conley 5). Therefore, education plays a minor role in class determination, in contrast to wealth possession.


The various available jobs and the qualifications thereto; significantly influence individual, class entry processes. In his assessment of Second generation immigrants, Portes observes attainment of social class as a factor of available job opportunities considering individual educational or technical qualification. The observation of class entry as characterized by the level of job placement; hence entry into designate social class is asserted by Bodkin. Portes illustrates the significance of the rise in social class by immigrant workers as their ranks in the labor hierarchical structures continued to rise. The rise of uneducated immigrant workers during the pre-industrial revolution period was dependent on their possessed skills and influence towards their immigrant counterparts (Portes 58). This rise into middle management characterized a rise in living standards hence entry into the middle social classes.

 Bodkin observes employment as a significant contributor to the Jewish advent from lower classes to the middle and upper classes. Despite, the affirmative action favoring the Jews, the level of employment factored in determining the entry into the middle social classes. These included entrepreneurial franchises undertaken and their potential for social influence and economic significance in their respective social-economic environments. However, as Bodkin illustrates, the African-Americans in the post World War II period, did not fare as well as their Jewish counterparts. The racial discrimination in job placements and effecting of the GI Bill provisions in respect to African-Americans critically facilitated high unemployment rates (Bodkin 48). The lack of substantial employment for the African-Americans segregated them to inner city environments; which are characterized by poverty, inferior housing, inadequate investments and insufficient economic activities.

 The low employment rates in the African-American communities contribute to their downward assimilation into the American social structures. Similarly, Portes indicates the difficulties faced by immigrant races in obtaining well paying jobs. Portes observes that despite the human capital represented in immigrants, the employment opportunities available to them on the basis of their racial profile, often do not match their human capital potential or qualifications (Portes 46). Therefore, they are restricted to the lower social class; while performing low menial jobs for their upkeep. However, in communities with established immigrant social networks, rising in the job environment is enabled through networked coordination and maneuvering through the job environment. This enables immigrant entry into the middle classes while providing opportunities for others to rise through the social structures.

Housing and Wealth

Conley’s perspective in classifying classes according to their wealth possession is significant to the determination of class entry. His characterization of class in terms of wealth and assets possessed places racial segregation in asset acquisition into focus. The implementation of racial, discriminatory policies in public and private institutions in lieu of property acquisition; significantly impairs African-Americans ability to acquire property (Bodkin 47). Conley observes the extent of racially influenced policies in financing housing for African-Americans. In a scenario comparing between white and black families, Conley observes it is immensely difficult for an African-American individual to acquire property in contrast to a white counterpart; all other factors like education and income being constant (Conley 4).

Similarly, Bodkin illustrates the challenges facing the African-Americans in the post World War II period. The implementation of restrictive clauses in property contracts where white property owners were prohibited from selling assets to African-Americans or Jews; illustrates the American Government’s tolerance for racial discrimination (Bodkin 47). The racial segregation of neighborhoods and imposition of restrictions in developing the poor neighborhoods or entry into the rich neighborhoods characterizes the extensive disparity in American social classes. Conley and Bodkin agree that influence of financial institutions in branding ethnic neighborhoods as risky economic regions contributed to the social disparity premised in racial segregation.

 The branding of poor inner city neighborhoods as risky prevents feasible, economic investments in these regions, hence diminishing the value of property and lifestyle of their occupants. On other hand, the restrictions imposed in property acquisition in white dominated neighborhoods create barriers to “colored” individuals attempting to maneuver through the American social classes; hence they are forced to remain in the lower social classes despite their ability to acquire property. Therefore, the assertions of Bodkin and Conley indicate assets as critical factors in the determination of individual entry into the middle or upper classes.

However, as Portes observes race creates the basis in which individuals are accepted into the American social classes, where non white individuals face greater challenges in gaining acceptance, unlike their European counterparts (Portes 47). Hence Bodkin’s and Conley’s perspective of race as the determinant of the basis in which property and asset acquisition in American is merited. However, social-cultural factors are significant towards asset possessions. Immigrants and African-Americans acquire their assets through purchase in lieu of their employment income. While these groups do not have inherited assets or significant economically endowed ancestors, their white counter parts are characterized by family histories of property ownership; hence inheritance is a contributing factor to their wealth position and associated social classes.


Bodkin, Portes and Conley, describe racial discrimination and segregation as contributing factors, in the social-economic disparities of American classes. However, any attempts by non whites to bridge the social gaps between the classes are met with significant challenges and obstacles imposed by the dominant white classes. These factors aim at curtailing the efforts of the non whites from rising through the social classes. These aspects are illustrated in public and private policies aiming at red tapping the non white neighborhoods; while implementing restrictive policies in lieu of non white individuals rising through the social classes.

Racism is a social aspect that impairs social development of apt individuals; while denying opportunities to deserving individuals on the basis of their cultural origin and skin color. However, despite the selfish interests of racist individuals, they fail to consider possible social-economic drawbacks inherent in their discriminative actions. For instant, allocation of public finding to welfare provision for inner city dwellers is based on their income’s taxation while increased crime rates towards the dominant white classes create a culture of insecurity in the American society. Therefore, racial segregation and discrimination have direct or indirect consequences to all social classes in America.

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