A PIECE OF THE PIE: Black and White Immigrants Since 1880 by Stanley Lieberson

A PIECE OF THE PIE: Black and White Immigrants Since 1880

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Are the urban blacks of today like the European immigrants of yesterday? When Nathan Glazer first suggested the comparison in the early 1970s, there was little clear evidence for or against, but since then leading historians such as Stephan Thernstrom, Herbert Gutman, and, more recently, Theodore Hershberg have demonstrated the essential invalidity of the comparison. Professor Lieberson (Sociology, Univ. of Arizona) here performs sophisticated statistical analysis of census and other material but fails to truly revive a rather dead question. Still, if it's data you're looking for, you'll find it. Lieberson shows first how blacks differed from the European immigrants in terms of access to governmental power and access to education. Regarding residential segregation, he finds that segregation per se has not increased so much as racial composition has changed, such that ""One can interpret the changing patterns of black-white segregation not as an effort by whites to increase their segregation from blacks but merely to maintain it."" And in employment he again finds like others before him that the unions for the most part closed their doors to the blacks--while opening new doors for the white immigrants. For such differences, Lieberson looks to social structural conditions (occupational opportunities, timing and flow of migration, level of segregation) and to race and discrimination, although he hesitates to emphasize any one factor. Regarding the question of race, for example, he states that while ""the disposition to apply the same levels of legal protection and rights"" to the various racial groups ""was weaker than that directed toward white populations,"" the greatly-improved position of the Japanese and Chinese may just be related to the idea that ""it is not impossible that whites have a hierarchy with respect to nonwhites such that blacks and Africans generally rank lower than Asian groups."" The book's main conclusion is equally bland. While he judges it ""a serious mistake"" to underestimate the conditions European immigrants faced upon arrival, it is ""equally erroneous to assume that the obstacles were as great as those faced by blacks or that the starting point was the same."" No news isn't good news: it's no news, period.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Univ. of California