HKS Authors

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I published The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions thirty-two years ago, in 1978. Given the furor and controversy over the book immediately following its publication, I did not anticipate that it would go on to become a classic. Indeed, the book’s impact on the field of race and ethnic relations–its arguments have been discussed in nearly eight hundred empirical research articles, not to mention the nonempirical studies–lends credence to the idea of productive controversy and to George Bernard Shaw’s famous dictum: “[I]t is better to be criticized and misunderstood than to be ignored.” My motivation for this essay is to reflect on responses to the book that claim to provide an empirical test of my thesis. In the process, I indicate the extent to which important findings have influenced my thinking since the book’s publication.


Wilson, William Julius. "The Declining Significance of Race: Revisited & Revised." Daedalus 140.2 (Spring 2011): 55-69.