Race, Ethnicity and Welfare States

Race, Ethnicity and Welfare States

An American Dilemma?

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Pauli Kettunen, Sonya Michel and Klaus Petersen

In this interdisciplinary volume, leading and emerging scholars examine the relationship between homogeneity and welfare state development. They trace Gunnar Myrdal’s influence on thinking about race in the US and explore current European states’ approaches to the strangers in their midst, and what social citizenship looks like from a global perspective.

Chapter 3: America’s segregated state: how the federal government shaped America’s racial and welfare orders

Desmond King

Subjects: politics and public policy, migration, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, migration, welfare states


This chapter focuses on the role of segregation in shaping the American federal state both before and after civil rights legislation was enacted in the 1960s. It argues that in the seventy years before civil rights, the federal government was not a mere reflection of racism in society but an active agent in fostering segregated race relations both in its own institutions and in society. This legacy was then dramatically transformed from the 1960s as the American federal state became a key agent charged with leading the eradication of discrimination in public and private sectors and building compensatory arrangements and policies to remedy past injustices. Thus, in both the world of segregation and in the civil rights era, the American federal state has been a core agent of the state’s relationship to patterns of racial inequality. The chapter draws on primary research materials to develop this analysis.

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