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Lois Verbrugge, Disability Experience & Measurement

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The Kerner Commission Report Plus Four Decades: What Has Changed? What Has Not?

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionFarley, Reynolds. 2008. "The Kerner Commission Report Plus Four Decades: What Has Changed? What Has Not?" PSC Research Report No. 08-656. September 2008.

The 513-page Kerner Commission Report, released in 1968, focused on providing answers to three questions about the 1967 race riots in the U.S.: What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent future occurrences? The Report concluded that urban violence reflected the profound frustration of inner-city blacks and deeply embedded societal racism. It cited evidence of problems that fell with particular severity on African Americans, including overt discrimination, poverty, high unemployment, poor schools, inadequate housing, lack of access to health care, and systematic police bias and brutality. The Report recommended sweeping federal initiatives directed at improving educational and employment opportunities, public services, and housing in black urban neighborhoods and called for a "national system of income supplementation."

How much has changed for urban African Americans in the 40 years since the Kerner Report? In this paper, Reynolds Farley focuses on several key economic and social indicators of the changing status of blacks: educational attainment, occupational prestige, employment, income, socioeconomic status, residential segregation, and intermarriage. For these analyses, Farley uses data from decennial censuses, the annual American Community Survey, and the annual March Current Population Survey. He then examines influences on trends in racial change during the past four decades.

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