ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 25 Years Ago: The New African American Middle Class 

Vol XXXIII, No 46 NOVEMBER 14, 1998

Robert Gregg

The fact that the position of the middle class in America as a whole is becoming increasingly tenuous, has important implications for the politics of the African American middle class. For as the problems of poverty increase and the number of routes out of the ghetto diminish, the black middle class begins to represent an ever-decreasing proportion of the overall black community. At the same time, however, it is becoming more visible and entrenched in terms of political and cultural consciousness. In addition, the kinds of behaviour that enable a family to maintain its suburban status (low fertility, ownership rather than renting, saving rather than spending) are very different from those that are functional to a ghetto community, as Carol B Stack (1974) has shown. Consequently, the middle class is in many ways returning to a situation of being more physically and behaviourally distanced from the ghetto, like the bourgeoisie of Frazier’s day. Moreover, because its members feel embattled they are perhaps more reluctant than their predecessors to make strong commitments to lower-class blacks, and thereby risk being associated with them.

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