Black and White Income Disparity

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Forty years after the civil rights movement, and we're still a ways off from reaching income parity among blacks and whites. A new study from Pew Charitable Trusts and Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution has revealed that incomes have increased over the last thirty years among black and white families as a whole — largely due to the fact that more women are (kicking butt) in the workforce (go us!) — but that the increase was greater for white families. Based on data from some 2,300 families, white children are more likely to make more than their parents and move up the economic ladder, while black children are more likely to make less than their parents and fall down the ladder. Today we'll talk to Julia Isaacs, Clarence Page, and Thomas Shapiro to try and figure out why this disparity still persists, and what can (should) be done to correct it.



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I think that when it comes to African American families passing wealth on to their kids, they desire to do so as well. On average, however, I think that they do not as they may not so easily due to their own retirement concerns/fears and the idea that they have to work for what they have as their parents worked.

Sent by RLJones | 3:13 PM | 11-14-2007

How does the increase in two-income families affect the results of the study? Is this corrected for in the results, or is it necessary to have two incomes to exceed the previous generation's wealth?

Sent by Jeff | 3:19 PM | 11-14-2007

I read a book for a class several years ago on real estate discrimination and how it affected futures of various individuals and families. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass by Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton. I wonder what effect the social surroundings of people might have on social and economic mobility as opposed to income or wealth.

Sent by pw | 3:20 PM | 11-14-2007

1. If you look at median vs mean income for full time wage earners grouped by sex, you see that these values tracked each other during the 1950s and 1960s but have increasingly diverged starting in the 1980s. This is part of the increasing concentration of wealth and income.
2. While taxation is part of the problem, the biggest part is the vast oversupply of labor. This is partially due to the movement of women into the workforce, but mostly due to the tremendous increase in our population driven by immigration which went from 100,000/yr in the 50s and 60s to 2 to 3 million/yr starting in the early 80s. Large scale immigration has historically been bad for most Americans who survive by selling their labor. It's supply and demand.

Sent by Stan Severance | 3:22 PM | 11-14-2007

Where ever this discussion goes, I'm so glad the last guest is gone. She was clueless. All science, no common sense.

Sent by chris | 3:24 PM | 11-14-2007

The more I hear about this study - the more flaws it has. Perhaps a better study should have been chosen to air and left this one as a blip on a back page somewhere. 2000 families out of how many millions? What states? The man with the rural question was dead on - I live in a rural area and for us we're all equally poor.

Sent by Linda | 3:30 PM | 11-14-2007

Continued stories such as this divert attention from what is the real problem: That relatively uneducated people are falling further and further behind, regardless of race.

This is primarily a function of job loss via export to other, lower production cost countries.

Of course those who came into this international economic change behind will have a very hard time catching up, regardless of race. We are in a global economy where our people must compete with others across planet who are willing to work for less.

Let's hear more on how to regain our economic primacy in this global economy.

Sent by fred | 3:30 PM | 11-14-2007

chris, it's not about common sense; it's about asking a specific question and getting a specific answer. Once you have one answer, you can look at more questions. You can't ask all the questions at once or you won't get truthful answers. I'm so tired of the contempt people have for education.

Sent by pw | 3:31 PM | 11-14-2007

The reason for the income disparity between blacks and whites has to do with the negative 'gangster culture' that is now the dominant cultural force shaping many black American families. The 'gangster culture' is also embraced wrongly by society at large out of a misguided attempt to respect a race. The 'gangster culture' is driven by negative rap music praising criminals and a lack of morality or ethics as a good thing. Ever wondered why many young gang-type guys wear their pants hanging down almost to their knees? It is because in prison, inmates are not allowed to have belts. From music, to fashion, to the very culture of black America, criminal activity is embraced. There are not many role models left in black America who are not gangster rappers or criminals. This culture proclaims money to be a 'god' of sorts and encourages youth to steal or deal, try or die, to get ahead. The 'gangster culture' is a very large reason for the disparity of income between whites and blacks. The 'gangster culture' does not teach the value of a good work ethic, it teaches children to lie, cheat, steal and deal. Not to work hard and try to live a good, solid life. While some may dismiss this issue, culture is the primary shaping force of any type of society, group or race.

Sent by Troy Johnson | 3:32 PM | 11-14-2007

I'm African American and I agree with Meredith. The system is designed so that you don't have to die as poor as you are born. One simply has to go to school, study hard, pay attention and save as much as one can. Invest those savings and watch your children grow. I was born poor, but I got good grades in high school, was able to go to college, read everything I got my hands on and payed attention. Now I can pretty much call most of the shots in my life.
A long time ago, if you were black people could come to your house, drag you out of it, burn your house down and hang you from a tree. That doesn't happen anymore.
Don't cry and blame...get busy.

Sent by Chris | 3:41 PM | 11-14-2007

I'm disappointed that the issue of white privilege did not enter into the study or this discussion. The caller Meredith spoke very pejoratively about African Americans, blaming their "values" and "work ethic" for the income disparity which is the attitude whites have historically had towards blacks. Robert Jensen addresses white privilege well in the book, "The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege."

Sent by Juana | 3:50 PM | 11-14-2007

Disparities happen because it's ok in america to be non all-inclusive. Latinos are a larger portion of the population than blacks and aren't mentioned here. that's the same as policy being made by the powerbrokers looking out for their interest at the expense of the powerless. Corporations have no interest in true equality. We've created a slave class, and brandish them criminals after they've served our needs (Mexicans). Capitalism and all our other endeavors drive the greed, and the non caring of the powerful. Until equality for all is regulated. Transparency in all facets of government available. We'll continue down this path of dsiparity.

Sent by juan | 3:50 PM | 11-14-2007

Why is it that every time we talk about income disparity whites immediately say that blacks have a poor work ethic. Blacks worked very hard for 200 years free. Today we work for less not because we are lazy and don't have ambition, but because whites pay blacks less because of race. Whites have a slave mentality and that is, "they will never make more than me". That is why blacks have to be better just to be equal in this country

Sent by Lee Little | 3:51 PM | 11-14-2007

I'm a white Southerner and have spent my career woking with black Southerners. The idea that Blacks have a poorer work ethic than anybody else is ridiculous. I talked to a Texan who said that without illegal immigrants who would do the gardening, pick up the garbage, all the grunt work, etc? I told him that in SC we were only slightly overun with with illegals and all of these jobs were still mostly being done by native born whites and blacks.

After Hurricane Hugo most of the roofing in my town was being done by small roofing companies where the owner was one of the guys on the roof. I'd guess 90% of them were Black, the rest white. Crews tended to be one or the other but sometimes mixed.

Ten years later the crews are 99% illegals and the owners are 100% white and they each run multiple crews. They seldom need to climb a ladder. They ignore any kind of regulation concerning safety, working hours, or simple human decency. You may blame Blacks for not being willing to do hard dangerous work for less than minimum wage, but I do not. I would rather do almost anything than work in slave conditions for a slave wage to make a rich man richer. All the policies in the US now seem to be aimed at making those on the bottom end poorer so the rich can be better off. Blacks, for many historical reasons tending to occupy the bottom rungs to a greater extent than most, are most adversly affected by these policies.

Sent by Stan Severance | 7:33 PM | 11-14-2007

I have no qualms with the Pew Study research about disparity of pay among black families, I think this is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. As a senior citizen still working there seems to be a disparity across culture, gender,age, and experience as well as race. I have a technical background with a masters and I see recent college graduates being hired with salaries 10K more than mine as just one example I can peronally attest to. Prof. Shapiro was very professional and knowledgable in his delivery.

Sent by Patrick McGuire | 7:20 AM | 11-15-2007

In my opinion, a contributing factor is the fact that Caucasian women are treated as minorities. So companies are giving preference to this group when hiring to achieve internal and external quotas. In turn, the white women who more than likely will be married to a Caucasian male will have a greater household income. As a result, the black minorities are being left out of the process entirely. The EEOC should extract data from fortune 500 companies and dissect the material based upon African American men, African American women, and Caucasian women and this would give a better reflection of the dilemma facing America today.

Sent by Timothy | 8:33 AM | 11-15-2007

This discussion needs 3 more points added (then, I believe, it will make more sense).
First, the rate of college (or vo-tech) admissions (by race & gender). Black women are more likely to enroll in college than black men. These womnen enter "professional" careers .vs "entry level" jobs.
Second, Work SMARTER not HARDER! Skilled people make more money WITHOUT overtime or taking a second job.

Lastly, personal ambition! I WANT to be "better off" than my parents and I'm going to work, learn, save, shop for bargains, whatever! (anything legal, of course). NOT to get the latest phone,car,game,.... But, to give to my family something more, finacial security.

Sent by Harold | 11:07 AM | 11-15-2007

I realize no matter what a person's race my be that anyone can have a rough time with income. I happen to be from a society that feels that you should do better than your parents as far as a career is considered. I know that the black friends that i had attended college with seemed to be given for of an education due to the gov't help. I think that this is one way that West Virginia is helping to bring the lower number of black incomes to increase

Sent by Aaron | 3:52 PM | 11-15-2007

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