Families in the Gautreaux housing mobility program: Perceptions and responses to the U.S. political economy

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This study examines how perceptions of shifts in the U. S. political economy such as those associated with the Great Migration(s), the Civil Rights Movement, and various housing policies influenced the lives of three generations of African American families and children. This study looks at the experiences of families living in Chicago, Illinois who participated in the Gautreaux Assisted Housing Program, which was a direct result of the Civil Rights Movement. A qualitative analysis is employed that analyzes the perceptions of Gautreaux participants (N = 25) about how changes in the U. S. political economy affect their life course development and the life courses of their parents (N = 50) and children (N = 72). Added to the perceptions of Gautreaux participants is an intergenerational analysis of educational achievement and occupational attainment in the context of a changing U. S. political economy from the Jim Crow era to the post-Civil Rights era. The findings suggest that in many cases participants perceived expanding opportunities but also recognized the persistence of structural constraints. They identified several structural changes that they believed influenced their families' educational and occupational opportunities: industrial jobs in the North, civil rights protests by African Americans against employment and housing discrimination (and the resulting policies like "affirmative action"), as well as increased government funding for job training and education. The intergenerational analysis of educational and occupational achievement revealed that each Gautreaux generation has higher rates of college attendance and post-high school training, as well as a greater range of occupations. I argue that the interplay between changing structural forces and bundled acts of resistance over the three generations created pathways that significantly improved life course development within and across the generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-226
Number of pages30
JournalReview of Black Political Economy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Gautreaux
  • Housing
  • Life course
  • Mobility
  • Perceptions
  • Political economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Economics and Econometrics

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