Melvin Oliver

Melvin L. Oliver is the dean of social sciences and a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Recent Articles

Sub-Prime as a Black Catastrophe

First came racial redlining. Then came racial targeting of toxic and predatory loans. Both spelled economic disaster for African Americans.

No other recent economic crisis better illustrates the saying "when America catches a cold, African Americans get pneumonia" than the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. African Americans, along with other minorities and low-income populations, have been the targets of the sub-prime mortgage system. Blacks received a disproportionate share of these loans, leading to a "stripping" of their hard-won home-equity gains of the recent past and the near future. To fully understand how this has happened, we need to place this in the context of the continuing racial-wealth gap, the importance of home equity in the wealth portfolios of African Americans, and its intersection with the new financial markets of which sub-prime is but one manifestation. Family financial assets play a key role in poverty reduction, social mobility, and securing middle-class status. Income helps families get along, but assets help them get and stay ahead. Those without the head start of family assets have a much steeper...

Creating an Opportunity Society

Social mobility, economic security, and self-reliance are at the heart of the American ideal. These widely shared goals can be the foundation for a new political consensus built around the cultivation of financial and human assets. At least two sources animate this new policy context. First, globalization is widening economic inequality and insecurity, for the middle class as well as the poor. The national competitiveness of the United States and the economic security of Americans depend on investment in both financial and human capital. Second, there is increasing recognition that family financial assets play a key role in poverty reduction, social mobility, and securing middle-class status. Income helps you get along; assets help you get ahead. Those without the head start of family assets have a much steeper climb out of poverty. Social policy needs to ensure income sufficiency while simultaneously increasing investments in the assets of the poor, so that they can take advantage of...