2009
Publication:
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

For many years social scientists have debated the role of social structure versus culture in explaining the social and economic outcomes of African Americans. The position that one takes often reflects ideological bias. Conservatives tend to emphasize cultural factors whereas liberals pay more attention to structural conditions, with most of the attention devoted to racialist structural factors such as discrimination and segregation. In this article I develop a framework for understanding the formation and maintenance of racial inequality and racial group outcomes that integrates cultural factors with two types of structural forces—those that directly reflect explicit racial bias and those that do not. In so doing, I hope to spark greater interest and dialogue in the research and policy arenas around a more holistic approach to poverty alleviation.