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The Ethnic Ghetto in the United States: Past and Present

David Ward
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Vol. 7, No. 3 (1982), pp. 257-275
DOI: 10.2307/621990
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/621990
Page Count: 19
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The Ethnic Ghetto in the United States: Past and Present
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Abstract

The original synthetic concept of the American ghetto was based upon the assumed casual relationships between an adverse environment, residential segregation and pathological social conditions. In response to re-evaluations of the process of assimilation, the validity of these relationships has been questioned but the original synthesis remains influential. It is argued here that without the reinforcement of an ethnically selective division of labour, the clustering of ethnic groups is not necessarily confined either to the inner city or to deprived groups. Nor is the persistence of ethnicity over several generations dependent upon high levels of residential concentration and narrowly defined ancestries. The fluidity or rigidity of the ethnic division of labour created strikingly different conditions of employment during each of the major waves of migration to American cities and the ghetto has been both a 'cul-de-sac' for labour migrants and the ground floor of an 'elevator' of advancement for immigrant settlers. Only when migrants were confined to the least desirable strata of a rigid segmented labour market, were the environmental disabilities and social isolation of the ghetto direct obstacles to their material advancement.

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