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What accounts for persistent racial inequality in the 21st century? While many studies detail the causes and consequences of racial inequities, few analyze the mechanisms reproducing structures of inequality. How do lived experiences-at the micro level-shed light on the macro structures of racial inequality? A rare, ten-year ethnography, this book follows the lives of individual, low-income African American youth from the beginning of high school into their early adult years. Levine shows how their interaction and experience with multiple social institutions (family, school, community) and individuals (parents, friends, teachers, coaches, strangers) shapes their hopes, fears, aspirations, and worldviews. The intersectionality of their social identities-how race, class, and gender come together to influence how they come to think about who they are-influences many behaviors that directly contradict their stated aspirations. Affected, too, by limited access to resources, these youth often take a path profoundly different from their stated values and life goals. Levine explores the volatility and constraints underlying their decision making and behaviors. The book reveals the critical junctures and turning points shaping life trajectories, challenging many long-held assumptions about the persistence of racial inequality by offering new insights on the educational and occupational barriers facing young African Americans.