New Study Shows Limited Economic Mobility for Black Families

A new study titled “The Economic Mobility of Black and White Families” by the Pew Charitable Trusts has found that the economic mobility of African-American families is limited. The study is based on a study of family incomes from the 1960s to the 2000s and finds that there are significant gaps in family incomes between African-American and white families. The report concluded that “In every income group, blacks are less likely than whites to surpass their parents’ family income and more likely to fall down the economic ladder.” Among the findings in the report:

  • There was no progress in reducing the gap in family income between blacks and whites. In 2004, median family income of blacks ages 30 to 39 was only 58 percent that of white families in the same age group ($35,000 for blacks compared to $60,000 for whites).
  • Only 31 percent of black children born to parents in the middle of the income distribution have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children from the same income bracket. Odds of exceeding parental incomes are better for black children from other income groups, but are still substantially lower than those of white children in the same circumstances.
  • More than one third (37 percent) of white children born to parents in the middle income group move up to the fourth or fifth quintile, compared to only 17 percent of black children whose parents have approximately the same levels of income.
  • Startlingly, almost half (45 percent) of black children whose parents were solidly middle class end up falling to the bottom of the income distribution, compared to only 16 percent of white children. Achieving middle-income status does not appear to protect black children from future economic adversity the same way it protects white children.
  • Black children from poor families have poorer prospects than white children from such families. More than half (54 percent) of black children born to parents in the bottom quintile stay in the bottom, compared to 31 percent of white children.

Unfortunately, the report fails to look at institutional racism and its many manifestations, whether they be restricting access to certain careers, educational institutions, or sending more African-Americans to prison. Moreover, an article from IPS News on the study cites criticism directed towards the report for its assumption that African-American and white children start from the same point with the same opportunities.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org