What Happens to Potential Discouraged? Masculinity Norms and the Contrasting Institutional and Labor Market Experiences of Less affluent Black and White Men
Though less affluent black and white boys and men adhere to similar gendered norms and aspirations and begin with similar labor market potential, they are often sorted into very different and unequal educational and labor market trajectories. Using national-level descriptive data and key qualitative studies of institutional processes, this article contrasts less affluent black and white men’s educational, labor market, and criminal justice system experiences and elucidates the processes of differentiation that reproduce those unequal patterns. In each institutional arena, less affluent black males pay a disproportionate price for enacting masculinity norms in comparison to white males. White boys and men are also presented with more desirable labor market options (and second-chance opportunities when they need help) that are denied their black male counterparts. This article suggests that only a complex strategy, which requires less affluent black men to resist more constructively while citizen groups hold institutions more publicly accountable, can enhance the labor market trajectories of black men.