Based on intensive interviews, the book reveals how these men have experienced varying degrees of exposure to more-privileged Americans--differences that ground their understandings of how racism and socioeconomic inequality determine their life chances. The poorest and most socially isolated are, perhaps surprisingly, most likely to believe that individuals can improve their own lot. By contrast, men who regularly leave their neighborhood tend to have a wider range of opportunities but also have met with more racism, hostility, and institutional obstacles--making them less likely to believe in the American Dream.
Demonstrating how these men interpret their social world, this book seeks to de-pathologize them without ignoring their experiences with chronic unemployment, prison, and substance abuse. It shows how the men draw upon such experiences as they make meaning of the complex circumstances in which they strive to succeed.