Wapo reports on some startling findings from three reports released by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
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.
Forty-five percent of black children whose parents were solidly middle
class in 1968 — a stratum with a median income of $55,600 in
inflation-adjusted dollars — grew up to be among the lowest fifth of
the nation’s earners, with a median family income of $23,100. Only 16
percent of whites experienced similar downward mobility. At the same
time, 48 percent of black children whose parents were in an economic
bracket with a median family income of $41,700 sank into the lowest
“There is a lot of downward mobility among African Americans,” Mincy said. “We don’t have an explanation.”
Mincy and others speculated that the increase in the number of
single-parent black households, continued educational gaps between
blacks and whites and even racial isolation that remains common for
many middle-income African Americans could be factors.