A longitudinal analysis of urban poverty: Blacks in U.S. metropolitan areas between 1970 and 1980

Mitchell L. Eggers, Douglas S. Massey

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35 Scopus citations


This article undertakes a longitudinal analysis of changes in black urban poverty in 59 large Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas between 1970 and 1980. The model is based on a set of equations we derived and estimated in earlier work to test explanations of urban poverty proposed by Charles Murray (1984, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, Basic Books, New York) and William Julius Wilson (1987, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy, University of Chicago Press, Chicago). The prior analysis, however, was estimated using only cross-sectional data. The present longitudinal analysis finds little support for Murray's arguments and strong support for Wilson's. Results show that structural characteristics of the urban labor market-namely the suburbanization of employment, the decline in manufacturing jobs, and the rise of low-wage services-act to reduce black male employment, increase the prevalence of female-headed families, and drive up black poverty rates; but changes in the generosity of welfare payments have little or no effect on these outcomes. Discrepancies between the cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses are reconciled by considering the likely effects of selective migration between metropolitan areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-203
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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