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Income inequality between white and black Americans remains as high as in the sixties

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Posted January 22, 2015

Level of income inequality between white and black citizens of the United States has not changed since the sixties. This stability is striking knowing that large and often successful efforts were put to reduce racial discrimination.

Image credit: mcclave via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Image credit: mcclave via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

”This article explored two demographic representations of how populations evolve to examine whether recent trends in black-white family income inequality are better characterized by intergenerational continuity or offsetting economic and demographic changes,” Deirdre Bloome at the University of Michigan says.

Median income of black families was 40% than median income of white families in the middle of twentieth century. Somewhat surprisingly, statistics remain very similar in the beginning of the twenty-first century. How is this persisting racial disparity can be explained? Previous literature offers two explanations: one emphasizing historical continuity and the other one underlining historical changes.

”Families’ socioeconomic situations persist because the cultural and material resources available to children shape their labor- and marriage market prospects. Historical legacies of disadvantage may linger because “rags to riches” feats are rare. If economic advantages dissipate across generations— leaving children downwardly mobile—then broad-based trends in the economy and family may exert more pressure on racial inequality trends than does continuity within families,” author of the study published in the American Sociological Review says. Bloome investigated whether persisting income inequality is due to differences in resources available to different racial groups or rather changing economic and demographic trends.

Although there is no doubt that the present situation is caused by the interplay of both mechanisms, sociologist argues that historical discontinuities played a more important role than continuities. Observed trend of income inequality is not explained by the model of intergenerational transmission of inequality.

”These findings suggest that recent trends in black-white family income disparity are not well-characterized by the forces of continuity that perpetuate historical forms of inequality from parents to children. Rather, discontinuity across generations within families, driven by downward mobility, undermines the accumulation of economic advantages and links racial inequality trends less closely to family background than to broad economic and demographic shifts affecting the population at large,” the scientist says.

In addition, growing inequality is explained by the changes in family structure. On the one hand, economic parameters were becoming more similar. On the other hand, proportion of single-parent families have increased dramatically among black people.

Article: Deirdre Bloome, 2014, Racial Inequality Trends and the Intergenerational Persistence of Income and Family Structure, American Sociological Review, 79: 1196- 1225,doi:10.1177/0003122414554947, source link.

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