Black Studies, Reviews, Sociology

Review: Pager, Marked

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The online e-zine PopMatters is running an interesting review of Devah Pager’s new book Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Like much of the other press this book has been receiving lately, the review focuses on Pager’s revealing analysis of the links between the U. S. penal system and the deep rooted racial and economic inequalities in the U. S. job market. PopMatters reviewer Steve Horowitz writes:

Most Americans find the idea of serving two punishments for the one crime unfair, yet according to Princeton Professor of Sociology Devah Pager, this happens all the time. A person spends time in jail, and then suffers from the stigma of incarceration after being released.… This isn’t news to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the justice system. However, Pager extends her analysis one step further through an experimental field study in metropolitan Milwaukee. She sends out pairs of young men with matched resumes on job searches for employment and makes some startling discoveries.
The Princeton professor shows that employers regularly exclude ex-offenders from consideration for entry-level, low-paying jobs, and provides strong evidence that the situation for young black men is significantly worse than for their white counterparts. Her study shows that white men who do not have a criminal record are more than twice as likely to be considered for a job as white men with ex-offender records. A white man with a criminal record has the same chance of being considered for a job as a black man without one. A black man without a record, or a white man with a criminal history, is three times more likely to be considered for a job than a black man with a criminal record.

Hrowitz concludes:

Much of what Pager says flies against the conventional belief these days that says that race is no longer a strong barrier against getting a job. She points out that most Americans no longer believe that ascribed characteristics, like race, hinder a person from employment. That may be true for middle-class and high-end jobs, but unfortunately, racism is still a problem on the low end of the pay scale, where most people with a record look for work.

Read an excerpt from the book.