The Public Interest

The Street Gangs and Ethnic Enterprise

Nathan Glazer

Summer 1972

IT has long been felt by those who struggle with the acute problems of living in the low-income areas of our cities that some answers could be found in the informal structures of social life among the lowincome groups. If the child-care authorities, the courts, the police were ineffective in controlling the fantastic level of juvenile delinquency, was it possible that the street gangs themselves could in some way do so? If the schools could not teach or control the children, in competition with the glamor of street life, could street life—and those who dominated it—take over some of the functions of education? If the public housing authorities could not maintain the buildings at some decent level, could some social form that emerged among the tenants do so? And if neither individual initiative nor government aid seemed to be effective in getting new groups into small business enterprise, could some ethnic or racial organization do so?

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