Work, race and the american dream


Journal Article

Belief in ultimate justice, that effort will be rewarded, is an important tenet of the American dream. It functions as a compensation myth for the inevitable failure of a promise of opportunity for all. Previous studies depending largely on class theories to explain variations in subscription to this belief find it to be inversely related to class position. Yet these studies fail to test the theory properly, because they assume that lack of control over one’s own fate, which is only crudely measured by class, is the direct inspiration for the belief. Furthermore, previous studies have largely ignored the intersection of class and race, but recent research suggests that class differences among Blacks in belief in the American dream would be greater because of the special problems presented to middle-class Blacks. Two measures of work, complexity and self-direction, are constructed from data provided in the Americans’ Changing Lives data set, using information from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. The effect of work processes on belief in ultimate justice is estimated, controlling for education, income and religiosity. Separate models are run for Blacks and Whites to test for interaction effects. Job characteristics are negatively related to belief in ultimate justice, but more so for Blacks than Whites, among whom belief in ultimate justice more closely corresponds with education. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Musick, MA; Wilson, J

Published Date

  • January 1, 1998

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 31 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 17 - 30

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2162-1128

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0038-0237

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/00380237.1998.10571089

Citation Source

  • Scopus