The Space Between Black And White

by Brendan James

Michael A. Fletcher bemoans the state of racial inequality 50 years after the March on Washington:

In 1963, blacks families earned 55 cents for every dollar earned by whites. In 2011, blacks earned 66 cents for every dollar earned by whites. The black unemployment rate averaged 11.6 percent between 1963 and 2012, more than double the white jobless rate over that time. The black poverty rate of 55.1 percent was just over three times the white rate in 1959. It dropped to 32.2 percent in 1972. But since then, progress has been slow. In 2011, 27.6 percent of black households were in poverty — nearly triple the 9.8 percent white rate, according to the Census Bureau.

Plumer lays out an array of charts tracking the largely unchanged disparity across the board:

“The wealth gap between minorities and whites has not improved over the past three decades,” reports the Urban Institute. “From 1983 to 2010, average family wealth for whites has been about six times that of blacks and Hispanics — the gap in actual dollars growing as average wealth increased for both groups.” And the Great Recession exacerbated that gap, as blacks and Hispanics were hit especially hard.


Joseph Ritter examines the role of discrimination:

Black workers seem to earn less because of differences in education or upbringing, while black workers’ employment shortfall appears to be more a factor of employer discrimination. In other words, black workers that manage to get a job appear to earn at comparable rates, controlling for education levels—but regardless of education, they appear to have a harder time getting a job, due to their race.

Derek Thompson homes in on the point about education:

“Today, white adults 25 and older are significantly more likely than blacks to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree,” Pew tells us. On the one hand, the black completion rate as a percentage of the white completion rate has increased from 42% then to 62% now. On the other hand, whites are still far more likely to graduate from a bachelor’s program by 25. This college advantage — reinforced through dual-earner households — translates into higher family incomes, higher home-ownership, and (as a result) higher wealth for whites. There is a reason why so many discussions of social mobility begin and conclude with education.