WASHINGTON - Decades after the civil rights movement, the
income gap between black and white families has grown,
says a new study that tracked the incomes of some 2,300
families for more than 30 years.
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.
Incomes among white men, meanwhile, were relatively
stagnant, while those of white women increased more
"Overall, incomes are going up. But not all children are
benefiting equally from the American dream," said Julia
Isaacs, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a
Washington think tank.
Isaacs wrote a series of three reports that looked at the
incomes of parents in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
and of their grown children 30 years later. Isaacs
compared the incomes of parents who were in their 30s
with the incomes of their children, once they reached
the same age group.
Parents have long hoped that their children would grow up
to be more successful than they were. Hopes were
especially high for black children who came of age
following the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The reports found that about two-thirds of the children
surveyed grew up to have higher family incomes than
their parents had 30 years earlier.
Grown black children were just as likely as whites to have
higher incomes than their parents. However, incomes
among whites increased more than those of their black
The result: In 2004, a typical black family had an income
that was only 58 percent of a typical white family's. In
1974, median black incomes were 63 percent those
"Too many Americans, whites and even some blacks, think
that the playing field has indeed leveled," said Marc Morial,
president and CEO of the National Urban League.
It has not, he added.
"We are like fingers on the hand," Morial said of black and
white Americans. "We are on the same hand, but we are
Morial blamed the disparities on inadequate schools in black
neighborhoods, workplace discrimination and too many black
families with only one parent.
"The public policy commitment to this has been sketchy over
the last 30 years," Morial said. "There has not been a real f
ocus on this."
Perhaps most disturbing, middle-income black families do
not appear to be passing on higher incomes to their children
in the same way that white families have, Isaacs said.
She found that only one in three black children from
middle-income families grew up to have higher incomes than
"That means a majority ended up slipping down," Isaacs said.
Among whites, about two-thirds of the children from
middle-income families grew up to have higher incomes
than their parents, she said.
On a positive note, black children from poor families were
much more likely to grow up to have higher incomes than
their parents, Isaacs said.
On The Net:
The Economic Mobility Project: http://www.economicmobility.org/
Brookings Institution: http://www.brookings.edu/
National Urban League: http://www.nul.org/