MacArthur Fellows Program

William Julius Wilson

Sociology | Class of 1987

Chicago, Illinois
52 at time of award
Area of Focus
Published July 1, 1987

About William's Work

William Julius Wilson is a sociologist whose work on race relations and the black underclass involves both theory and empirical research.

His work has influenced not only his own field, but also those of political science, law, economics, and history. In The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987), Wilson advanced the thesis that the precipitous decline of manufacturing jobs, coupled with the out-migration of the middle class, have resulted in the concentration of poverty in America’s inner-city neighborhoods.  He explores the devastating consequences of massive job loss in such isolated communities in his book, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (1996).  Wilson is also the author of Power, Racism, and Privilege: Race Relations in Theoretical and Sociohistorical Perspectives (1973), The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions (1978), and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics (1999), among other works.


Wilson is the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Wilson received a B.A. (1958) from Wilberforce University, an M.A. (1961) from Bowling Green State University, and a Ph.D. (1966) from Washington State University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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