Way Down in the Hole

A promotional screenshot from the fourth season of HBO drama The Wire showing DuQuan, Randy, Michael and Namond, some of the new characters.

David Simon's HBO series The Wire dramatizes the lives of impoverished residents of the city of Baltimore, Maryland. As Ammol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson observe in their article, "Way Down in the Hole: Systemic Urban Inequality and The Wire," the series critiques the widely-held notion that individuals are primarily responsible for their economic situations.

Over five seasons, The Wire examines crime and incarceration, gangs and street culture, joblessness and work, politics and urban policy, and education and youth. The series offers an alternative explanation of urban poverty, one supported by scholarship on inequality: "political, social, and economic factors reinforce each other to produce profound disadvantage for the urban poor," disparities that "are reproduced across generations." By presenting the lives and choices of individual characters, the show also demonstrates the ways in which "individuals' decisions and behavior are often shaped by–and indeed limited by–social, political, and economic forces beyond their control."

Anmol Chaddha is a doctoral student of sociology and social policy in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. William Julius Wilson is Lewis F. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. You can find a complete list of Prof. Wilson's works in DASH here.