William Julius Wilson was very well-known in the late 1980s and early 1990s for this book and for The Truly Disadvantaged, which came out in 1987. Wilson’s basic stance, which is put forward in When Work Leaves, is that the chronic poverty of African Americans in inner cities is not their fault. It is not due, as some argue, to a “culture of poverty.” Instead, it is due to structural factors that have simply made it difficult for inner-city blacks to find jobs.
Wilson lists a number of factors that he blames for the plight of inner city blacks. Mostly, he blames economic changes. Jobs have, he says, gone overseas and to the suburbs. Good jobs for blue collar workers have been destroyed by technological advances. Importantly, Wilson does not generally believe that racial discrimination is the main problem either. The main point of his book is that people in inner city ghettoes remain poor because good jobs have disappeared, not because they have bad values or because whites are racially biased against them.