William Julius Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard and the winner of the 2013 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize (bestowed by the American Academy of Political and Social Science [AAPSS]), delivered the inaugural Daniel Patrick Moynihan lecture on May 9, 2013, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. A member of the Library of Congress’s Scholars Council, which advises the Librarian and the Kluge Center, Dr. Wilson began with Dr. Moynihan’s 1965 report formally known as “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” calling it “prophetic.” Later senator from New York, Moynihan, a sociologist himself who had been in the Kennedy Administration, at the time was Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson Administration. Wilson’s lecture, titled “Echoing Moynihan’s Call for National Action: The Critical Disconnect between the Poor and Gainful Employment,” expanded on Moynihan’s concerns and insights and updated them to include Hispanics and to include an evaluation of the current situation, which he sees of having gotten worse in the nearly 50 years since Moynihan’s report was written.
Among his points in the lecture, Dr. Wilson spoke of “recent trends in the occupational clustering and unemployment of minority groups” and pointed out some of the “interconnected and complex patterns linking unemployment and underemployment to family stability.” Professor Wilson aligned his comments to Moynihan’s hopes of generating “real, comprehensive, and ultimately successful national public policies to tackle the problems created by urbanization, joblessness, residential segregation, and the inadequate education of blacks in urban areas.” He emphasized the necessity to “better understand the unique problems facing minorities in poor urban communities, which require more focused solutions to the obstacles keeping them from gainful employment,” concluding: “Because unemployment and underemployment are linked with pervasive social problems and economic maladies that affect all workers, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or age, a more inclusive, far-reaching initiative would elevate the skills and job opportunities of many Americans…. Without coordinated, deliberate intervention at the policy level, the outlook for their economic future is very bleak indeed. Senator Moynihan highlighted and worried about these trends several decades ago; unfortunately his call for national action has yet to be heeded.”
Douglas S. Massey, president of AAPSS, said of Professor Wilson in announcing the award: “Bill Wilson is one of the most influential social scientists of the twentieth century and, arguably, one of the great American scholars of our time. His work on poverty, race, space, and class has had an enormous influence in shaping debates in academic as well as policy circles. It seems particularly fitting that the Moynihan Prize will be awarded to him at a time when inequality has once again risen to the top of the American agenda and the plight of the American underclass demands thoughtful attention from policymakers and scholars more than ever before."
A brief biography of William Julius Wilson can be found on the Kluge website at: http://www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/scholars/wilson.html
A webcast of the inaugural Moynihan lecture will soon be up on the website of the AAPSS: http://www.aapss.org/