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Biographies William Julius Wilson

For a generation, Wilson has remained one of America’s most distinguished thinkers on issues of urban poverty, race, and class relations, and social inequality. His 1987 book, “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass and Public Policy,” is a staple in American college courses that address issues of race, class, and poverty. Former President Bill Clinton praised the book as a “stunning volume” on how “the inner cities of our country have crumbled as work has disappeared.”

Wilson was a MacArthur Fellow from 1987 to 1992, was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1998, was selected by Time magazine in June 1996 as one of America’s 25 Most Influential People, and is currently one of only 24 University Professors at Harvard, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member. He also serves on the Scholars Council of the Library of Congress.

As a scholar-in-residence at the Kluge Center, Wilson revisited research on race and inequality to be found in his earlier works through the lens of recent events. In particular, Wilson continued to refine theories laid out in his seminal work “The Declining Significance of Race,” where he suggested that economic class was more critical than race in determining future life outcomes.

News Releases

Publications (selected list):


“Reflections on Issues of Race and Class in 21st Century America: Revisiting Arguments Advanced in The Declining Significance of Race (1978)”
May 21, 2015

William Julius Wilson revisits arguments in his controversial book “The Declining Significance of Race” (1978) assessing the relative importance of race and class in determining the life outcomes of African Americans, Latinos, and whites in contemporary America.

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Selected Works at the Library of Congress