The deep and persistent racial wealth divide will not close without bold, structural reform. It has been created and held in place by public policies that have evolved with time including slavery, Jim Crow, red lining, mass incarceration, among many others. The racial wealth divide is greater today than it was nearly four decades ago and trends point to its continued widening.
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.
The inheritance of black poverty: It’s all about the men
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 inequalities, neighborhood effects, workplace discrimination, parenting, access to credit, rates 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:
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?
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).
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 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:
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.
“Getting the Whole Village to the Movement: #BlackLivesMatter, Please Call Home”
Saturday, September 19, 2015 10 pm EDT
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Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852
The cry of #Black Lives Matter rings throughout the nation. It stands in the wake of a new movement and awakens our national consciousness to the persistent system of white supremacy and structural racism that penetrates each of our institutions. By placing violence against black bodies at the center of the movement, BLM has demanded dignity and respect for those who are often disregarded as disposal.
The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the pain and injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012 and gathered momentum in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and far too many others. The significance of this emergence was not so much the movement as it was the cry of our people declaring that “Black Lives Matter”. A cry for a need for a new liberation uprising for Black people in America. #BlackLivesMatter as a slogan met the need of Black people to declare its pain, loudly and precisely. Moving that slogan as the undergird of a movement is the hard part. Figuring how we ignite political and social transformation — not just marches, Twitter feeds and shouting matches on- and offline is the real challenge.
More teaching, training and strategic action is needed. More poor people, experienced organizers and on-the ground development is required to create a movement. Too often, meetings and community conversations are held in order to delay progress and to give the illusion of progress, all while the community remains broken. The Black Lives Matter Movement has the potential to turn this very moment into a movement, but must expand in depth and breadth to accomplish the task of justice and reconciliation. #BlackLivesMatter has to be the talk on the “block” across America.
There is no doubt that the “#BlackLivesMatter” movement is a critical opportunity to engage community interest groups in conversations about race and privilege. The movement issued a call to action for people everywhere to recognize the reality of institutionalized racism. But to whom is it engaged?
We must get as excited about policy shaping as we do about protesting. Systemic terrorism needs also requires Black redemption; and that work is little, slow and fueled political bickering on the left, long meetings and little relationship building. Who is teaching the history that brings us to the street proclaiming #BlackLivesMatter ? A slogan is cry for a need for a new liberation for Black people in America, but within the village, is there a depth of understanding beyond the pain – understanding of the Empire which presses us? “#BlackLivesMatter” as a slogan meets only a small need. Moving that slogan as the undergird of a movement igniting political and social transformation — not just marches, Twitter feeds and shouting matches on- and offline.
But here is the rub. No movement can be sustained or make significant change if it falls to co-opting by the same systems which rule the Empire that designs, control and maintains the structures of institutionalized racism and system of white supremacy. It cannot be vulnerable to take-down and huge vacuums of community disengagement. If #BlackLivesMatters is to be a true moment, the whole community is required to build the walls and fortify a strategy that moves forward on objectives targeting goals for all Black people.
The whole village must understand where and when they enter. If not, it is merely another group attempting to advance a narrow agenda, important, but narrow just the same. How do we infuse the slogan with a movement?
You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. Come listen and learn. SHARE please.
OUR COMMON GROUND where friends come to confer with allies.
Listen & Call In Line: 347-838-9852
Saturday, September 19, 2015 10 pm ET
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“Speaking Truth to Power and OURselves”
Being poor has an adverse effect on one’s health and poorer communities have a higher mortality rate. That’s no secret, admits Amani Nuru-Jeter, associate professor at University of California Berkeley.
What is less well known is how race plays into it. It appears that living in poverty takes a harsher toll on black Americans than white Americans, according to the conclusions from Nuru-Jeter’s research.
Setting out to find out how income inequality affected communities, Nuru-Jeter and her colleagues found that living in poverty leads to higher death rates for black Americans.
“When we did the statistical analysis, the databases showed us that for one unit increase in income inequality … [there] were 400 to 500 fewer deaths among whites and 27 to 37 [more deaths] among African Americans,” Nuru-Jeter told the Guardian.
This means that living in poverty can lead to more deaths for blacks communities, but not white ones.
Nuru-Jeter and her team spent eight months combining data from the US census bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Lewis C Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research for 107 metropolitan areas with a black population of at least 10%.
The difference between mortality rates for black and white Americans was much greater than she expected. The team especially did not expect to see fewer deaths in white communities as income inequality went up. That, however, can be attributed to economic segregation, which is more prevalent in black neighborhoods, Nuru-Jeter theorized.
She said that poor white Americans are more likely to reap the benefits of living near areas with better resources and higher incomes, while poor black Americans tend to live in relatively isolated inner-city neighborhoods.
“When low-income whites can reside in close proximity to higher-income whites then they reap the benefits of living in a higher-income area and everything that goes along with that,” Nuru-Jeter said.
In black communities, economic segregation is much higher. Higher-income black people are more likely to move away from low-income black people. Poor black communities often struggle with higher crime rates, fewer grocery stores, a higher proportion of liquor stores and less green space such as parks.
“In terms of opportunity to lead the healthy life, the environment doesn’t really support that,” Nuru-Jeter said.
In general, black Americans are more likely to struggle financially.
In 2013, the poverty rate for black Americans was almost three times that of white Americans – 27.2% compared to 9.6%. That same year, median household income for white Americans was more than $58,000, while for black Americans it was just $34,500.
In November, the unemployment rate for black Americans was 10.6%, more than twice the unemployment rate of white Americans, which was 4.6%.
A college education, commonly believed to be a ticket out of poverty, is expensive. In fact, about half of black college students graduate withmore than $25,000 in student loans. Yet even a college degree doesn’t guarantee that they will be better off. In fact, a recent Demos analysis of Americans’ net worth revealed that white high school dropouts have about the same wealth that black college graduates do.
As a result, some black Americans are often stuck in poverty.
What is killing black Americans?
The mortality rate in the study considers all types of death, from homicide to cardiovascular disease to infant mortality.
“It’s a crude measure of population health, but a very reliable and sensitive indicator of the well-being of the population,” Nuru-Jeter said.
“We were interested in population health as opposed to the health of individual people. As income inequality in the area increases, what does that say about how well the population in general is doing?”
The black communities were doing much worse than the white ones, she found.
In general, the black population in the US has poorer health.
A recent Gallup poll showed that black Americans are more likely to be obese and have high blood pressure. More than a third of black Americans surveyed by Gallup are obese.
The survey – for which more than 272,000 Americans were interviewed – found that for every age group, black Americans were more likely to be obese than their white, Asian and Hispanic counterparts. Almost half of black Americans 45 to 64 years old were also being treated for high blood pressure. For those 65 and older, 70% were receiving such treatment. Black Americans are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Not only are black Americans more likely to suffer from these chronic conditions, but they are also more likely to be uninsured. According to a census survey from 2011, the uninsured rate for black Americans was 20.8%; for whites, it was 11.7%.
The Affordable Care Act has made a dent in the number of uninsured Americans, but many still remain. Overall, the uninsured rate for black Americans is 17.3%,according to Kaiser Family Foundation.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, by June 2014 about 1.7 million black Americans 18 to 64 years old obtained health insurance since the official roll-out of the health insurance marketplace in October 2013.
While many uninsured black Americans might qualify for Medicaid expansion, the states where they live might not have expanded their Medicaid yet. Nearly 60% “of uninsured African Americans with incomes below the Medicaid expansion limit reside in states that were not planning to expand Medicaid as of late June 2013”, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.