It’s Driven More Low-Income, Black Motorists Into Debt ::: Chicago

Chicago Hiked the Cost of Vehicle City Sticker Violations to Boost Revenue. But It’s Driven More Low-Income, Black Motorists Into Debt.

Now, a former official regrets the move and wants the city to revisit it. Some policies, she said, are “terrible.”

 

This story is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ.

During negotiations for Chicago’s 2012 budget, newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-City Clerk Susana Mendoza agreed to hike the price of what was already one of the priciest tickets vehicle owners can get in the city. Citations for not having a required vehicle sticker rose from $120 to $200.

The increase, approved unanimously by the City Council, was pitched by Mendoza as an alternative to raising the price of stickers as well as generating much-needed revenue from “scofflaws.”

A ticket hike, Mendoza told aldermen, could generate $16 million a year for the city.

That did not happen. The increase has brought in just a few million dollars more a year, while it’s unclear if it led to greater compliance. Sticker sales have been largely stagnant.

But increasing the price of sticker tickets came at a devastating cost for thousands of Chicago’s poorest residents, particularly those from African-American neighborhoods, according to an investigation by ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ.

Debt from this one type of ticket swelled, compounded by late penalties and collection fees. Collectively, drivers now owe the city some $275 million for sticker tickets issued since 2012.

The penalty increase — coupled with a pattern of racial disparities in sticker ticketing — has exacerbated a uniquely Chicago phenomenon: Thousands of mostly black drivers filing for bankruptcy to cope with ticket debt.

ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ analyzed millions of records from tickets dating back to 2007 and found:

  • Sticker citations are the least likely of the city’s routine parking tickets to get paid, with only one in three tickets issued in 2016 paid within a year. Other frequently issued tickets, including $60 street cleaning citations and $50 expired meter citations, are cheaper and more likely to end in payment.
  • Black neighborhoods are hit with sticker tickets at a higher rate, per household, than other parts of the city, according to an analysis of tickets from 2011 to 2015. Tickets issued by police drive the disparity.
  • Tickets issued in more affluent, majority white neighborhoods are more likely to get dismissed, according to an analysis of 2017 tickets. That’s in large part because motorists from those neighborhoods appeal at higher rates than drivers cited in other parts of the city.

The mayor’s office did not respond to questions about how the fine increase affects black residents. Instead, in a statement, a spokesman for Emanuel said the finance department “is always reviewing enforcement and collection. That’s in part what drove this administration to create new payment plans to make it easier for residents to pay off tickets.”

Mendoza, meanwhile, expressed regret over her role in increasing the cost of sticker tickets at the expense of low-income black Chicagoans. Now state comptroller, she said the city should “revisit” the ticket prices and consider forgiving drivers’ ticket debt once they come into compliance with the sticker requirement.

“Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to just give tickets and tickets and tickets to people who can’t afford to pay,” said Mendoza. “It’s important that we see what the consequences of policies are … Sometimes they’re terrible.”

Making “Scofflaws” Pay The Price

The decision to raise the fine was framed publicly as a way to pass the burden of paying for pothole repairs — which, along with other street maintenance, are financed with revenue from sticker sales — from “soccer moms” who drive large vehicles to “scofflaws” who don’t buy stickers or purchase them late.

It was the fall of 2011 and Emanuel’s first budget. Years of borrowing and overspending from the administration of his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, had left Chicago in a perilous financial condition. The housing downturn, meanwhile, had led to a drop in some tax revenue. The city needed to find new revenue sources.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

Among the newly elected mayor’s proposals to narrow the deficit, he suggested cuts to libraries and mental health centers while increasing the prices for water service, garbage removal and some parking.

He also proposed raising the cost of Chicago’s wheel tax — what’s known colloquially as the “city sticker” — for some large passenger vehicles from $75 to $135 per year. Heavier vehicles already paid more.

Chicago’s wheel tax is unique among the country’s largest 15 cities. Some cities have fees that are tacked onto state vehicle registrations, but none are so expensive.

Mendoza pushed back on increasing the cost of stickers, saying it was too steep and would hurt families that owned larger vehicles. One of the city clerk’s main jobs is to run the sticker program.

She suggested instead that the city raise penalties for sticker “scofflaws.” Aldermen applauded her strategy and the Emanuel administration went along. The increase was included in the broader vote on the city budget, which the City Council unanimously approved.

The cost of a sticker went up for all motorists, though not as much as initially proposed. Penalties for motorists who purchased city stickers late increased to $60, up from $40.

The citation for not having a sticker went up 67 percent, to $200 — an amount that, with late penalties and collections fees, quickly can rise to $488 and become a financial burden for families.

A lawsuit filed against the city last week alleges that these penalties exceed a state cap of $250. City officials have not responded to the suit, but have indicated that they will use Chicago’s “home rule” authority — a privilege that allows large cities to set their own taxes and fines — as a defense.

Despite repeated questioning over several weeks, finance department officials would not say if they ran revenue projections or considered how a price hike would affect the city’s poorest residents before the ticket hike was approved.

(See  Interactive Map) 

Elliott Ramos/WBEZ, David Eads/ProPublica Illinois and Katlyn Alo/ProPublica Illinois

Kristen Cabanban, a finance department spokeswoman, said in a statement that hiking ticket prices was meant to “serve as a deterrent for scofflaws” and an incentive for motorists to purchase stickers.

Sales have been relatively steady since 2008, at 1.2 million to 1.4 million stickers a year, according to records from the city clerk’s office.

In an interview, Mendoza said the final sticker ticket price “was based on the fact that the increase in the sticker itself would be marginal and that the money would be made up more so on the noncompliance side. They needed to come up with the revenues for the city at that time to fill that budget hole.”

She projected a windfall in testimony at an October 2011 City Council budget hearing.

“If we were to increase that fee [to], say, $200, that would give you $16 million there, without having to ask a single person who is in compliance today to give us more,” Mendoza said. “Let’s go after the other folks.”

Her projections appear to have been based on assumptions that everybody who gets a ticket pays it, and that the number of total citations is similar year to year. Both assumptions are false.

Few motorists pay city sticker tickets, a trend that has held steady both before and after the price increase. From 2007 to 2016, the payment rate over 12 months remained about one in three. Meanwhile, the number of sticker citations issued annually ranges between 200,000 and 250,000.

Police, finance department parking enforcement aides, investigators from the clerk’s office and private contractors all write tickets.

In years when the number of sticker citations were similar, revenue increased by a few million dollars. About 200,000 tickets were issued in both 2011 and 2014, for example, and revenue increased from about $21 million to $25 million. There were also similar numbers of tickets issued in 2007 and 2015 — about 250,000 tickets. Revenue jumped from about $25 million to $32 million.

Over time, those amounts can be expected to grow as more drivers pay their tickets.

Meanwhile, debt has skyrocketed. Drivers owe the city about $16.8 million for unpaid sticker tickets, late fines and collections fees from citations issued in 2011. They owe nearly twice that amount for unpaid tickets issued in 2012. And that debt keeps climbing.

Unpaid sticker tickets have contributed to an explosion in Chapter 13 bankruptcies in Chicago, a trend ProPublica Illinois reported on earlier this year. These citations, according to the city’s ticket data, represent one in four tickets connected to bankruptcies.

Cabanban said the increase in bankruptcy filings is “largely due to a small number of bankruptcy law firms selling Chapter 13 as the cheap and easy way to get out of having to pay the city debt, while those firms almost never deliver on that promise.”

Indeed, most bankruptcies tied to unpaid tickets fail as debtors are unable to keep up with required monthly payments. Bankruptcy firms routinely alter the terms of Chapter 13 payment plans in order to ensure their legal fees are paid first, a practice that has recently come under scrutiny in Chicago.

City officials say they want indebted drivers to get on municipal payment plans instead of filing for bankruptcy.

“Early enrollment in the City’s payment plan, where fines, penalties and accrued interest can be avoided, is open to all motorists – even those who have only received one ticket,” Cabanban said.

However, motorists with substantial ticket debt who have lost their driver’s licenses or vehicles because of unpaid tickets are required to pay $1,000 or more to sign up for a monthly payment plan. That down payment can be a barrier for thousands of drivers who file for bankruptcy protection to restore their driving privileges.

More Tickets in Black Neighborhoods

Last month, ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ reported on how the city has, on some 20,000 occasions over the past decade, issued multiple city sticker tickets to the same vehicle on the same day. Those duplicate tickets were disproportionately issued in black neighborhoods.

Those disparities are evident in a broader analysis of where sticker tickets are handed out. ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ mapped the 1.1 million sticker citations issued between 2011 and 2015 and found more citations were issued, per household, in low-income black neighborhoods than anywhere else.

(See chart here) 

David Eads/ProPublica Illinois and Katlyn Alo/ProPublica Illinois

Of Chicago’s 77 community areas, North Lawndale, West Englewood and West Garfield Park had the highest rates of sticker tickets — at least 10 times higher than in majority white, more affluent neighborhoods such as Forest Glen, Edison Park and Norwood Park, where the rates are lowest.

City officials have offered varying explanations for the disparities. A spokesman for the police department said officers check for city stickers during traffic stops. Finance department officials, meanwhile, said their staff may issue more sticker tickets in South and West side neighborhoods because those areas have fewer parking meters or residential parking zones — meaning there are fewer other kinds of tickets to issue there.

Another explanation for the disparities: More motorists in low-income black neighborhoods simply don’t have city stickers. An analysis of sticker sale data from 2017 does show slightly more late sticker purchases in black neighborhoods, when compared to other parts of the city. The data doesn’t offer a complete account, however, as motorists who never bought stickers are simply left out.

Mendoza said she knew at the time of the debate that many low-income Chicagoans struggled to buy vehicle stickers. While the city offers a discounted rate for senior citizens, no such discount is available for low-income residents. What’s more, she said, many middle-class and more affluent residents who don’t buy stickers can avoid getting caught more easily than low-income residents because garages are more prevalent in more affluent neighborhoods.

He said he’s been looking into policy solutions but has not found an answer.

Villegas was first elected in 2015, after the decision to raise the penalty for the city sticker citation. But he said he’s probably voted on other occasions to increase fines and fees without considering how they may affect the city’s poorest residents.

“Do I have the ability to comb through that budget and look through every fee? No,” he said. “Obviously we’re trying to balance the budget. But at the same time, we have to make sure we’re balancing it in a manner that’s not breaking people’s backs.”

Portrait of Melissa SanchezMelissa Sanchez

Melissa Sanchez is a reporter at ProPublica Illinois, where she has been looking at how ticket debt affects the poor.

 Melissa.Sanchez@propublica.org                   @msanchezmia   708-967-5728

 Signal: 872-444-0011  

MORE on this topic:

How Chicago Ticket Debt Sends Black Motorists Into Bankruptcy

A cash-strapped city employs punitive measures to collect from cash-strapped black residents — and lawyers benefit.

If you have any ideas or tips, email us at melissa.sanchez@propublica.org and eramos@wbez.org.

ProPublica Illinois reporting fellow Jerrel Floyd, news applications fellow Katlyn Aloand news applications developer David Eads contributed to this story.

Millions of Black Voters Are Being Purged From Voter Rolls, Often Illegally: Report

Millions of Black Voters Are Being Purged From Voter Rolls, Often Illegally: Report

Residents cast their votes at a polling place on November 4, 2014, near Ferguson, Mo.       Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

As the end of Barack Obama’s presidency grew closer, election officials began preparing for the next election. Instead of strengthening the security of voting machines and making voting more accessible to citizens, states did the exact opposite. But they didn’t just make it harder to vote. For hundreds of thousands of registered, eligible voters across the nation, they made it impossible.

Voter Purges (pdf), a new report by the Brennan Center, highlights the systematic purging of voters from rolls by state and local officials around the country. These are not random, isolated cases. It is a methodical effort that disproportionately affects minority voters. Even worse, no one seems to care.

In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which was an attempt to make registering to vote easier by offering driver license applicants the opportunity to register to vote. The law also prevented states from purging voters unless they met certain requirements.

But the Brennan report highlights how states have skirted the law and purged voters without punishment. And after the Supreme Court dismantled the requirements for voter pre-clearance with the Shelby v. Holder rulingstates with histories of voter discrimination no longer required federal pre-clearance before purging rolls.

Between 2014 and 2016, 16 million registered voters were removed from state rolls, 33 percent more than were moved between 2006 and 2008. For the election of 2012 and 2016, the Brennan Center estimates that two million fewer voters would have been purged if those states had to apply by the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Some of the egregious highlights of the report include:

  • In June 2016, the Arkansas secretary of state gave a list of 7,700 names to county clerks to be removed from the rolls because of supposed felony convictions. That list included people who had never been convicted of a felony and formerly convicted persons whose voting rights had been restored.
  • In 2013, Virginia deleted 39,000 names from its voting roster. In some counties, the mistakes on the list were as high as 17 percent.
  • A federal court halted a purge after Hurricane Katrina after justices found that one-third of the purged names came from a majority black parish in of New Orleans.
  • After the Shelby v. Holder decision, Texas purged 363,000 more voters than it did the election cycle before the case. Georgia purged 1.5 million more voters.
  • Alabama, Indiana and Maine have illegally instituted the widely ridiculed Crosscheck system (on which Charles D. Ellison previously reported on for The Root) that purges voters without federally-mandated notification.
  • In 1986, one Louisiana official remarked that a voter purge effort “could really keep the black vote down considerably.”
  • Instead of checking out inequities, Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice has been urging states to do more purging.

Almost every type of voter purge disproportionately affects black voters and voters of color. Some states purge rolls based solely on names but non-whites are more likely to have the same names. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.3 percent of Hispanic people and 13 percent of black people have one of the 10 most common surnames, compared to 4.5 percent of white people.

Black and Hispanic voters are more likely to move, often in the same jurisdiction, but voter purges based on address eliminate them from voting. Officials also use “voter caging” which intentionally sends mail to verify addresses in a format that cannot be forwarded, leading to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.

African Americans are also more likely to have felony convictions, and elderly and minority voters are more likely to be incapacitated, all reasons for which someone can be purged from a voter roll.

Almost every study ever done on this issue shows that in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Instead, these purges are intentional efforts to restrict voting rights.

Some of the easily-implementable recommendations to rectify this travesty include:

  1. Public notifications of impending voter purges.
  2. Making purge lists available to the public, including at polling places.
  3. Accepting provisional ballots from purged voters.
  4. Universal voter registration forms and rules.
  5. Stop using failure to vote as a reason to purge voters.

All of these policies seem like they would be universally-accepted fixes for a flaw in our democracy.

But then again, not having a Russian agent for a President seems like a smart thing too. How’s that working out?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of “it.” Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.    Posts

Baby Bonds: A Plan for Black/White Wealth Equality Conservatives Could Love?

Baby Bonds: A Plan for Black/White Wealth Equality Conservatives Could Love?

Darrick Hamilton calls for spreading the benefits of asset-ownership to all Americans.

 

JOIN THE INSTITUTE IN DETROIT FOR A CONFERENCE ON RACE & ECONOMICS, NOV. 11-12.

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Sex, Race, and the Law: Considering America ‘In the Dark’ :: The Nation Mag

patty-wetterling-in-the-dark-podcast-ap-img

Jerry and Patty Wetterling, parents of Jason Wetterling, who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed by an Annandale man in 1989. (Star Tribune via AP / Renee Jones Schneider)

Madeleine Baran’s stunning investigative podcast grapples with our so-called “justice” system.

If Childish Gambino’s song “This is America” and Boots Riley’s film Sorry to Bother You perfectly distill the absurd comedy and violent hell of the United States circa 2018, then Madeleine Baran’s In the Dark does the same in podcast form. The audio-documentary series dropped the haunting final episode of its second season earlier this month, and, like Donald Glover’s and Riley’s works, Baran’s opus lays bare the nexus of racial anxiety, guns, criminal “justice,” and capitalism in our nation.

In the Dark is produced by APM Reports and hosted by lead reporter Baran, who helms an investigative team of a half dozen journalists who work on a single story for a year. Season 1investigated the 1989 abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota. Wetterling’s fate went unsolved for almost 27 years, during which he became the poster child for dangerous misconceptions about child kidnappings. But unlike the purveyors of many true-crime series, Baran and her team do not hype hysteria. Rather, they reveal how those in positions of power—like the local sheriff, politicians, and huckster John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted—were incompetent and exploitative of the Wetterlings. (Danny Heinrich, an early but largely unpursued suspect, confessed in 2016 as part of plea deal over child-pornography charges.)

Read More

 

Why White Women Keep Calling the Cops on Black People – Rolling Stone

One of the most famous instances of a threatened white woman leading to a black person’s death is Carolyn Bryant. Bryant lived in Money, Mississippi, in 1955 when she accused a 14-year-old boy of following her behind the counter of the store she co-owned, grabbing her waist and bragging that he had been with white women before. Later that evening, her husband and brother-in-law found this boy, forcefully took him from his relative’s home, lynched him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River. The men were never convicted and later confessed to the murder a year later. The boy’s name, of course, was Emmett Till, and his death galvanized the civil rights movement.

Source: Why White Women Keep Calling the Cops on Black People – Rolling Stone

A Note from OCG

We will now have an alt-right #SCOTUS There is little that we of goodwill can do about it now. It is too late for those who would, who could have to claim their government. We all know something is wrong – it has been for a very long time. When the horse is out of the barn, it is too late to put up a reminder sign to close the door.
#Trump and his GOP puppets are the biggest and most pressing problem, but not the only ones. We are cornered on all sides. A ruthless sheriff is in town and his deputies are everywhere. Poor people have been targeted among the unwanted. Public spaces and tax-rolled law enforcement are now weaponized to dispose of and make invisible, instill fear and isolation to “otherize” those deemed unworthy. Blatant acts of violations of fundamental human rights have become normalized forms of public policy enforcement and oversight.
Protest marches and protestations of any kind will not turn the time. While we idled in our fear of the Muslims, Al-Qaeda and Iranian powers. Wall Street and Washington’s swamp creatures were sucking the very oxygen from the air. Even your vote has been stolen and put up for sale. The GOP stands behind a corrupt and vile President because they know that their fate is controlled entirely by him – manipulation is expensive. The lifetime of emissaries can be fleeting at best.
As we enter the last era of my broadcast career, our message is profoundly fundamental:
1. Exposing wrongs is not the same as righting them.
2. What we knew as America has been forever changed. What we understood about it, remains the same.
3. Governments are not moved by shame. In this era, neither are politicians.
4.  If the House is not turned in November, there will be a seismic permanent shift in the       infrastructure of the republic. One where there is no undoing.
5.  Comrades and allies must be willing to make all kinds of serious sacrifice. If not, our children and grandchildren will be the sacrifice.
fiverr OCG_profile2
We look forward to being back with you in the Fall of 2018. Do we have what it takes to igniting the rights and dismantling the wrongs, to rescue those who don’t know they need rescuing ? I don’t know. We will see.

 

“Transforming Truth to Power, One Broadcast At a Time”

The inheritance of black poverty: It’s all about the men

REPORT

The inheritance of black poverty: It’s all about the men

Scott WinshipRichard V. Reeves, and Katherine Guyot

bc83a767-cbd4-4bc7-8331-e7c84b900c38

Black Americans born poor are much less likely to move up the income ladder than those in other racial groups, especially whites. Why? Many factors are at work, including educational inequalitiesneighborhood effectsworkplace discriminationparentingaccess to creditrates of incarceration, and so on.

Black men, stuck in poverty: Chetty’s latest

But gender is a big part of the story too, as detailed in a new paper from the Equality of Opportunity Project, “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective” by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie Jones, and Sonya Porter. As always, there is a huge amount of data and analysis in the new paper. But the big finding is that race gaps in intergenerational mobility largely reflect the poor outcomes for black men. The report is another contribution to the growing literature showing that race gaps in the intergenerational persistence of poverty are in large part the result of poor outcomes for black men.

“We conclude based on the preceding analysis that the black-white intergenerational gap in individual income is substantial for men, but quite small for women. It is important to note, however, that this finding does not imply that the black-white gap in women’s individual incomes will vanish with time. This is because black women continue to have substantially lower levels of household income than white women, both because they are less likely to be married and because black men earn less than white men.” (p. 23)

In an attempt to estimate the impact of different marriage rates, Chetty et al. calculate the intergenerational mobility rates of black and white men raised in both single parent and married families, and find little difference. As they conclude, “parental marital status has little impact on intergenerational gaps” (p. 25).

In a new paper published today, we examine the same question in a different way. (See our longer Technical Paper here, and full Results here). We confirm the stark differences in upward earnings mobility for black men compared to both black women and whites. We also confirm that black women, despite their solid earnings mobility, have very low family income mobility. We then estimate the impact of racial differences in marriage rates by simulating higher marriage rates among black women: like Chetty, we find no significant effects.

 

Specifically, Chetty et al. show that black men born to low-income parents are much more likely to end up with a low individual income than black women, white women, and—especially—white men. As they write:

Black and white Americans, on different starting blocks

Black and white children are born into very different economic circumstances. Almost half of black boys and girls are in households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, compared to just over one in ten white children:

Almost half of black youths grew up in the bottom quintile

Share of youths ages 14 to 16 with parents in each income quintile

Black menWhite menBlack womenWhite women0%50%100%0%100%Bottom quintileSecond quintileMiddle quintileFourth quintileTop quintile

Source: Authors’ calculations using the NLSY97

There are, then, huge race gaps in the chances of being born to or raised in a poor family—gaps that were scarcely lower among children born in the early 1980s than they were among those born in the years around 1960. But what about the chances of escaping poverty as an adult?

See  Chart here

Gender and race gaps in upward mobility

Using data on 4,200 black and white Americans from the NLSY97, we find that over half (54 percent) of black men born into households in the poorest fifth of the family income distribution end up, as individuals, in the poorest fifth of the earnings distribution for their respective gender, between the ages of 28 and 35, compared to the minority of white men (22 percent), white women (29 percent), and black women (34 percent).

Black men have low earnings mobility

Share of youths from the bottom quintile who remain in the bottom quintile as adults

See  Chart here

Black menWhite menBlack womenWhite women0%20%40%60%80%0%80%

Source: Authors’ calculations using the NLSY97

In terms of their individual earnings, black women have similar odds of escaping poverty as white women, though both these groups lag behind the upward mobility of white men. These analyses don’t consider the income of other family members, however. What happens when we look instead at adult family income, as opposed to individual earnings? A very different picture emerges for black Americans:

Black men and women have low family income mobility

Percentage of youths from the bottom quintile who remain in the bottom quintile of family income as adults

See  Chart here

Black menWhite menBlack womenWhite women0%20%40%60%80%0%80%

Source: Authors’ calculations using the NLSY97

Black women face a very high risk of being stuck in poverty (62 percent), surpassing even the 50 percent risk faced by black men. For whites, the odds of remaining stuck in poverty remain relatively low, for both men (28 percent) and women (33 percent), when we use a family income measure.

The headline finding here is that, among those who grew up poor, black women are the only group showing a marked difference between the risk of being in the bottom quintile of the individual earnings distribution (for each gender), and the risk of being in the bottom quintile of the family incomedistribution (for the whole age cohort). Whites do well on both counts; black men do poorly on both counts. Black women do reasonably well on the first and very poorly on the second. This result is probably driven by the fact that black women tend to create families with black men who do poorly on both counts and thus bring down the family income results for black women.

Lower marriage rates aren’t hurting black mobility

Why? Various explanations could be given. The most obvious is that, assuming marriages or cohabitation mostly occur within racial groups, black women’s family position is damaged directly or indirectly by the poor outcomes for black men. If white women end up with white men, who in terms of their earnings are more than twice as likely to escape poverty as black men, their family income will be higher. Equally, if black women are more likely than white women to end up as single, they will also record a lower family income.

We set out to model the impact of household formation by artificially equalizing the marriage rates of black women and white women. The results will of course depend not just on whether they marry, but also on whom they marry. In our simulation, we assume that the additional women who are married have a husband with the same economic characteristics as their brother (see the Technical Paper for our detailed methods). The intuition here is that most people are likely to marry someone with a broadly similar background as themselves, and siblings, by definition, have an almost identical one. The results of this equal-marriage-rate simulation are as follows:

Simulating marriage does little to improve mobility for black women

See  Chart here

Help black men to help black families

Our results strongly echo those of the Chetty team. So what conclusions can be drawn? Chetty’s team are blunt, writing that “the key to closing income disparities for both black and white women is to close intergenerational gaps in income between black and white men.”

This is certainly one of the most important implications of both their study and our own. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty for black Americans requires a transformation in the economic outcomes for black men, particularly in terms of earnings. One important point here: the relationship between earnings and marriage runs in both directions. Married men tend, other things equal, to earn more: one study of identical twins suggests that being married raises earnings by one-fourth. Married men may feel more responsibility to provide economically for their families, and especially their children. Low marriage rates may therefore have some impact on earnings.

It is also clear that the vast inequalities by race cannot be alleviated by upward mobility alone. Black girls are, relatively speaking, more likely to move out of poverty in terms of their own earnings. However, we should keep in mind the sheer number of black children being raised in low-income households in the first place. Closing the race gaps in upward mobility will require wholesale shifts in economic outcomes, perhaps above all for men’s earnings.


Scott Winship is a former Brookings Institution fellow, now at the Joint Economic Committee. His contributions to this report ended before he took his current position. The authors did not receive financial support from any firm or person for this article or from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this article. Winship is an honorary advisor for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and the Archbridge Institute. Other than the aforementioned, the authors are currently not an officer, director, or board member of any organization with an interest in this article.

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