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MIGRATION AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: Bipluralism and the Western Democratic State

  • Gerald D. Jaynes (a1)

The dawn of the twenty-first century confronts Western democracies with a racialized class problem. The globalization of capitalism—mass geographic movement of peoples, capital, and markets on scales unprecedented since the Atlantic slave trade—has brought poor migrants into affluent nations. Migrants' descendants are replicating conditions associated with poor Blacks. Affluent Western democracies are hurtling toward biplural stratification defined by a multiracial underclass. Racialized class stratification stems from economic policies. Capitalist democracies' edifice of social policies—sanctioning expectations of rising prosperity, welfare “safety nets” for minimal consumption, low-wage migration policies—erroneously assumed that jobs and wages would continuously grow to absorb expanding populations. Overuse of low-wage migration policies commodified work relations in low-skilled jobs. Acculturated to demand affluent living standards and egalitarian human relations, educationally deprived descendants of migrants find commodified work regimens repellent. Despite large populations of jobless natives, some maintain that affluent democracies need more migrants to do the jobs that natives won't do. But jobless youth are alienated and prone to agency, as riots in England, the United States, and, more recently, France and other areas of Europe suggest. To avert the solidification of biplural societies, social policy must slow rates of migration from low living-standard economies, expand minimum wages and income transfers to working-citizen households, and provide documented immigrants clear avenues to citizenship. This agenda is more likely to succeed in the United States, where minority voting strength is gathering considerable momentum.

Corresponding author
Professor Gerald D. Jaynes, Yale University, Economics Administration, P.O. Box 208268, New Haven, CT 06520-8268. E-mail:
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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
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