A sociological approach to the topic begins with the assumption that race and ethnicity are socially and politically constructed phenomena:.
- that many minorities grow up in environments where academic failure isn't condemned.
But minority drop-out rates, test scores, and other empirical data tell only part of the story. What the information doesn't show is the lack of support systems available to minority students, many of whom are products of economically disadvantaged school districts. To not recognize and address these facts, to lay the blame purely on a cultural phenomenon, is to deny many students the chance to achieve.
Think, for instance, of two men who start their 20s with an equal amount of financial capital. Within six years, one has completed his university degree and is well on his way to establishing a career, while the other has finished less than two years of undergraduate work and has few real prospects for advancement. More than money determines their fates. Personal qualities " self-motivation, discipline, capacity to learn from one's own mistakes and others' examples, tenacity, honesty, empathy, integrity, prudence, and proper deference to those who can help one prosper " matter as well. But these qualities do not simply materialize from thin air; society must foster them. The young man who has never been taught the value of prudence or has never had to exercise patience is unlikely to set demanding goals for himself and is therefore unlikely to, as the English say, "get on" in life.
Sowell's take on black populations in the Western Hemisphere will also put off those who maintain that racial prejudice, more than anything else, holds blacks back. Sowell writes, "Haitian blacks, having been independent of whites for more than two centuries, should be the most prosperous in the hemisphere and American blacks the poorest, if racial oppression accounts for poverty, but in fact their respective economic positions are directly the reverse " again suggesting that human capital has a greater effect [on a group's economic well-being] than racial oppression.