A new study reported by the New York Times shows that even when black boys are raised in wealthy households, they are more likely to earn less in adulthood than their white peers of the same background. While black wealth may seem like an escape from poverty, a majority of black boys in the highest income bracket will grow up and move to the middle or lower class. White boys who grow up rich, however, are more likely to remain that way.
In numbers, 63 percent of affluent black boys will become middle class or lower, meanwhile, only 36 percent of affluent white boys will move to lower income brackets. “You would have thought at some point you escape the poverty trap,” Nathaniel Hendren told the Times. Hendren is a Harvard economist and an author of the study.
According to the report, this income disparity is interestingly not present among wealthy black girls and white girls, who end up earning about the same income in adulthood.
If the differences in income, according to the study, cannot be explained by internal factors such as household income or school performance, then the only other explanation is that the disparity is a result of external factors. The report explains that when growing up, regardless of income, black boys are more likely to experience heightened racial discrimination beginning in preschool that comes in the form of disciplinary actions. “It’s not just being black but being male that has been hyper-stereotyped in this negative way, in which we’ve made black men scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, told the Times.
These stereotypes hurt black men economically. Twenty-one percent of black men raised in poverty are incarcerated, and black men in the top 1 percent of households are just as likely as poor white men to be incarcerated.
The significance of this study is that it helps dispel the idea that class is the driving factor of income inequality in America. The report shows that a difference in race, even when two boys come from the same economic background, results in overwhelming disparity. “One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”
Read the full study here.