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Thomas Shapiro

American sociologist
What is really being handed down from generation to generation is the profound legacy of reproducing racial inequality. The legacy is difficult to discern because the language of family heritage hides it from our political consciousness.

Thomas M. Shapiro (born April 24 1947) is the Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy at Brandeis University.

QuotesEdit

The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality (2005)Edit

  • American families are in the process of passing along a $9 trillion legacy from one generation to the next. This is a lot of money, but it is distributed very unevenly.. ... Hand in hand with this money, I submit, what is really being handed down from generation to generation is the profound legacy of reproducing racial inequality. The legacy is difficult to discern because the language of family heritage hides it from our political consciousness.
    • p. 32


  • Mainstream sociological theory sees differences in jobs, skills, and education as the primary causes of inequality, and substantial wealth transfers embarrass this theory. The classical sociologist Emil Durkheim, for example, predicted that family inheritances would decline over time in favor of giving to charitable and nonprofit organizations, but studies examining actual bequests invalidate this predication. ... In 1989 charitable bequests constituted less than 10 percent of proceeds of estates valued at over $600,000 in the United States.
    • p. 32


  • A core part of my argument is that wealth, as distinct from income, offers the key to understanding racial stratification. ... The difference between the two is often muddled in the public mind, and only recently have the social sciences begun to treat wealth as an intrinsically important indication of family well-being that is quite different from income. ... Wealth represents a more permanent capacity to secure advantages in both the short and long term, and it is transferred across generations.
    • pp. 32-33

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