Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Albert Nylander

Relational Format



The purpose of this study is to inform about the best practices of workforce development, and to consider the sociological and economic factors in impoverished areas that are to be considered for successful traditional business principles to work. Through an in-depth study of eight African American male respondents who were participants in a job training program in Clarksdale, Mississippi, this study explores the impact of the vestiges of past discrimination embedded in the institutions and culture to make a Mississippi community particularly challenging for providing equitable opportunities for low income residents (Cobb, 1992; Duncan & Blackwell, 2014; Myers Asch, 2011). In this analytical case study of the Meraki Job Training Program, I describe the day-to-day realities of survival for underprivileged male youth ages 17-26 living in Clarksdale. Interviews with the participants in the program were conducted over a year-long period. Findings demonstrate that job training programs operating in regions with persistent and deep poverty must consider strategies beyond the traditional workforce development techniques to have success. In addition to the traditional economic challenges such as the lack of transportation, housing, affordable childcare, there were sociological factors like the social normative beliefs of learned helplessness and failure that were prominent in the community. Research also shows that building strong and functional social infrastructures, such as having a strong effective leadership structure in a community to develop networks and resources for residents, are critical for community development (Brown & Nylander, 1998; Brown, Nylander, King, & Lough, 2000). Therefore secondary data (n=335) were utilized on Delta leaders' perceptions of poverty and workforce development throughout the Mississippi Delta Region to explore their beliefs regarding these inhibiting factors.

Accessibility Status

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Sociology Commons



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