The Common Good

Race and the Wealth Gap

New studies managed by the Pew Charitable Trusts show us how far the country still needs to go in achieving economic equality. A major finding is that the while overall incomes are rising, the income gap between African American and white families is also rising.



Incomes have increased among both black and white families in the past three decades - mainly because more women are in the work force. But the increase was greater among whites, according to the study being released Tuesday.

One reason for the growing disparity: Incomes among black men have actually declined in the past three decades, when adjusted for inflation. They were offset only by gains among black women.


And, the studies showed that African Americans have more difficulty passing on their economic accomplishments to their children.



Nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults, according to a new study - a perplexing finding that analysts say highlights the fragile nature of middle-class life for many African Americans.


Overall, family incomes have risen for both blacks and whites over the past three decades. But in a society where the privileges of class and income most often perpetuate themselves from generation to generation, black Americans have had more difficulty than whites in transmitting those benefits to their children.


Along with the income gap, there is a wealth gap.



Another reason so many middle-class blacks appear to be downwardly mobile is likely the huge wealth gap separating white and black families of similar incomes. For every $10 of wealth a white person has, blacks have $1, studies have found.


After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and Voting Rights Act in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. next turned his attention to issues of economic justice. Forty years after his death, we still have a long way to go.

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