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Black versus white household income over the past 50 years

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I outline here what ought to be the astounding fact that, more than a half century after the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the creation of affirmative action, etc., America has achieved exactly zero progress in improving the economic status of African Americans relative to that of whites:

In 2015 — the most recent year for which data are available — black households at the 20th and 40th percentiles of household income earned an average of 55 percent as much as white households at those same percentiles. This is exactly the same figure as in 1967.

Indeed, five decades of household income data reveal a yawning and uncannily consistent income gap between black and white Americans across the economic spectrum. Fifty years ago, black upper-class Americans had incomes about two-thirds those of white upper-class Americans, while the black middle class — those in the 60th percentile — earned about two-thirds [note: this should be three-fifths] as much as its white counterpart. Those ratios remain the same today.

I also engage in some groundbreaking historical research, uncovering the previously unknown fact that Martin Luther King’s civil rights efforts were not limited to one speech in August of 1963:

It is important to remember the extent to which the civil rights movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was focused on economic injustice. Indeed, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who planned the March on Washington that culminated with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, organized the event primarily to highlight and protest what they called “the economic subordination of the American Negro.”

And Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, which he was organizing at the time of his murder, was an even more explicit argument that racial and economic justice are inextricably linked.

Still, leftists should avoid snark about white economic anxiety, which is just as real as racism:

None of this is intended to minimize the legitimate anxiety felt by white families at a time when wages for low-wage workers have declined and middle-class incomes have stagnated, even as the economy has boomed and upper-class incomes have soared. Between 1980 and 2014, the post-tax income of the bottom 50 percent of the population grew by 21 percent, while that of the top .01 percent grew by 424 percent.

But over that same time, black working- and middle-class households have seen their incomes stagnate in exactly the same fashion as those of their white neighbors — and from a base that was and thus remains little more than half as large.

A genuine populist movement would unite working- and middle-class Americans of all backgrounds, rather than dividing them by exploiting false beliefs about the supposed loss of white economic privilege.

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  • Cervantes

    Wow, and I thought Frederick Douglass was doing an amazing job. I guess not after all.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      Frederick Douglass – now more and more than ever.

    • Thirtyish

      He hasn’t been the same since the Bowling Green Massacre.

  • sibusisodan

    Hypothetically, if household income had not stagnated after 1975ish for anyone but the highest incomes, would the picture be looking any better?

    (That is, were focussed antipoverty programs for black households ineffectual on their own terms, or were they counteracted by Scrooge McDuck englarging his moneypool?)

    • Cervantes

      Well, in addition to the continuing effect of racism, this reflects the generally low social mobility in the U.S. Being born into a family with the resources to give you a good education — which even in public school is in large part a function of where you live — and the right connections, and even maybe a down payment on a first home, and all of that, matters a whole lot no matter what your ethnicity. Since African Americans mostly started near the bottom, they stay there, but so do lower income white people. Of course racism compounds the disadvantage.

      • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

        Knucklehead white teenagers largely go to college and have their youthful transgressions handled by Campus Security and the Honor Board, whereas kids who don’t go to college get stop-and-frisked and receive marks on their permanent record for largely the same acts.

        • TJ

          Actually college enrollment for blacks and whites are remarkably similar and in neither group does the majority enroll college. Whites do graduate college however at a much greater rate. (fivethirtyeight.com/features/race-gap-narrows-in-college-enrollment-but-not-in-graduation).

        • BaronvonRaschke

          That has a surface appeal, but remember that we are a high school nation. Only 32% of us have college degrees.

          • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

            True but the consequences of having a criminal conviction on your record vs not having one are vast and lifelong. And the proportion of a given group that can actually attain upward mobility is far less than 50%, so a few points here and there can still really matter…

            • BaronvonRaschke

              Boy oh boy are you right. I had to practically beg my wealthiest (and most liberal) white client to give a job to a young black man with a drug conviction and jail time. He did, and the guy is doing well (promoted) 4 years later. Strangely enough, the person who would not hire him was black. I had to intervene directly with my friend the owner. Without such luck, the guy told me he would probably be dealing again. He started out at about $25,000 and now makes $42,000. We go out of our way to screw our young people, the minorities get screwed more.

              • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

                Yeah, I saw this again and again in government jobs (I was mostly analysis/ middle mgmt): when it came time to hire interns, or promote from within, the bosses invariably just couldn’t quite bring themselves to give the opportunities to the hard-working minority woman who’d put herself through night school over the amiably coasting white person who was supposedly a councilman’s chief of staff’s neice/ nephew…

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      There’s been some back and forth. Minority household incomes did better than white households under Obama, but also did worse after the Great Recession. I’d be interested to see how things changed starting in 1980 when overall inequality started taking off (FWIW I blame tax policy) but suspect I already know the answer…

      • TJ

        Ask and ye shall receive: https://www.google.com/amp/www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/12/racial-wealth-gaps-great-recession/%3Famp%3D1

        ( It’s shocking how much the Alt Right is interested in this issue. They’re all over Google with it.)

        I don’t follow your tax policy point. If the primary trend to impact white incomes has been huge stagnation among those without a college degree, that’s doubly true with respect to the black community.

        • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

          Thanks again for the link.

          1) The link makes an interesting discussion of wealth inequality, and that’s arguably more important, but my comment was about trends in income inequality. Did it not recover faster for minorities than whites in the Obama years? I guess my understanding is that it’s less a steady stagnation and more a set of medium-terms gains and setbacks. If the fleeting periods of Democratic control can’t even move the needle for a little while, you wonder what the point is.

          2) re: tax policy, my point is more about it fuelling the huge growth in amassed wealth among the top 10%/ 1%/ 0.1%. We now tax investment income a lot less than earned income from wages. The middle-class stagnation is real, and arguably echoes that trend, but there are other continuing factors (the decline of unions, public sector jobs, suffocation of public schools, etc.)

    • TJ

      No not at all.

      There are several factors at work here: 1) Blacks earn (for a variety of reasons) just 73% of what whites do; 2) black unemployment continuously averages about 2X that of whites; and 3) school districts–which are segregated by income now–for blacks underperform average school district performance.

      Some of these factors are driven by conscious or institutional racism, but I’d argue the greatest of this is driven by economic factors.

      But conscious racism is by no means a small issue; the adage I learned as boy that a black has be twice as good as a white to get a job remains true: “Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.” See here: http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html. …And note that this study was conducted in 2 of the most liberal cities in the country–Chicago and Boston.

      • drdick52

        Generally good, but ignores the extremely powerful and pervasive unconscious racism which permeates our country. Racially mixed and minority majority schools grossly under perform majority white schools on every measure, at least partially fed by Loomis’s hobby horse of white flight “for the children.”

        • TJ

          I don’t think I’m ignoring it. What you’re calling unconscious I tend to think of as conscious. They may not admit it, but they’re thinking it.

          • BaronvonRaschke

            I agree. It sure seems “conscious” to me too.

            • Mojrim ibn Harb

              Having been on the receiving end of it numerous times (in Seattle, in the 90’s) I have to call it unconscious. Having a very white name I learned to recognize the half-second double take they would do when I showed up for the interview. All these nice, white, socially conscious liberal folks that cannot imagine thinking unapproved thoughts simply could not look at dark skin without the gears grinding in their heads. If you peered into their heads later they could not remember it at all.

      • lulymay

        I am a white female in my late 70’s and I can assure you that for most of my working life, a white woman had to be 2x at least as a white male in order to get promoted and even today, stats show they women in similar positions still earn on average less than 70% of what a male counterpart is paid.

        Having said that, there is no doubt that women today are being promoted more regularly than they were in my day, but it isn’t always based on comparing capability, but other attributes. One only has to look at the TV screen on a daily basis to see examples of that.

        • Thirtyish

          And at a domestic level, things are even worse. Even where women compete professionally with men (while still being paid less across the board), they are still by and large the ones to shoulder the burdens of household tasks and childcare (i.e. unpaid labor). Women often do twice the work as men, while not being compensated.

        • Zytor-LordoftheSkies

          “stats show they women in similar positions still earn on average less than 70% of what a male counterpart is paid.”

          No they don’t. That’s about as real a “fact” as unicorns.

    • philadelphialawyer

      As an aside, the quoted data does NOT show that household income has “stagnated” for all but the highest incomes. It explicitly states, “Between 1980 and 2014, the post-tax income of the bottom 50 percent of the population grew by 21 percent.” In other words, using 1980 (1980, not, say, 1933, but 1980, which is supposedly right at or near the apex of post war prosperity) as a baseline, poorer than average Americans have seen their income rise more than one fifth. How is that “stagnation?”

      One also wonders if technological advances, which do benefit all or most Americans, are even factored into that stat.

      The notion that “economic anxiety” or “stagnation” for white people has anything to do with anything, is, I think, way, way overblown. White people live pretty damn well in the USA. And better than they did in 1980. No matter where they sit on the economic ladder.

      Of course, this, “the top .01 percent grew by 424 percent,” is obscene. And that wealth is crying out for redistribution downward. But that doesn’t negate the fact that “stagnation” is a myth.

      • Lurking Canadian

        Income growth of about 0.5% per year in the context of economic growth of upwards of 2% per year is for sure stagnation. If not, what the hell is the economy FOR?

        • philadelphialawyer

          The economic growth SHOULD be better distributed. No doubt.

          But slow, steady improvement, represented by an average half per cent increase every year, for close to forty years, is not “stagnation” either. And, to repeat, that is as measured year over year starting with a baseline year that the same people who are supposedly “economically anxious” now look back to with nostalgia. And, notice too, that in the main article there is even talk of “decline.”

          Saying that the bottom fifty per cent have not gotten their fair share of the growing economic pie is not the same thing as saying that the bottom fifty per cent are living no better, or even worse, now, than they were forty years ago.

          ETA: And I am going to go ahead and give the “neoliberal” Democratic party of the Clintons and Obama, et al, most of the credit for that steady improvement in the lives of the bottom fifty per cent.

          • Lurking Canadian

            I think this analysis is too simple. Prices of housing have risen much faster than inflation. Prices of education, health care and other professional services have also risen much faster than inflation. In fact, since professionals are usually found among the top 10% (part of the cohort that didn’t stagnate) it is necessarily the case that the price of their services has risen more or less in step with the economy.

            And that doesn’t even consider what are called “Veblen goods”. If you need a degree from an Ivy League school to really succeed then the fact that they’re not creating more spots at Harvard means the price of a Harvard education grows in step with the highest incomes, not the median, and the people at the bottom are left further and further behind.

            I think you can definitely make a case that your kid earning $24000 in 2017 is WORSE off than his father was making $20000 in 1980.

            I should clarify that I’m not interested in refighting Clinton v Sanders for the ten thousandth time. It is possible for all the following to simultaneously be true:
            1) the economy sucks for a broad swath of the population
            2) all things equal, the economy sucks worse for minorities than it does for white people
            3) the Democrats have been doing their best to improve matters for the bulk of the population while the Republicans are doing their best to make everything worse

            • philadelphialawyer

              (1) to (3) can be true, and are true, in my opinion, without the rest of your post being persuasive to me.

              Some things have gone up more than the inflation average, some things less. Consumer goods cost much less, in real dollars, than they did in 1980. As do cars. That’s why it is an average. And things work better now too, and last longer, which is hard to factor in. And many things the middle class, and even the lower classes, have now, simply did not exist in 1980, such as smart phones, personal computers, access to the internet, vastly expanded entertainment options, and so on. And health care innovations, while costly, also did not exist 40 years ago, and, with Obamacare, actually are available to many folks in the bottom fifty percent.

              If the analysis is “too simple,” than we need a more sophisticated analysis to show why that is. And where the discrepancy lies. Not a cherry picked list of things that cost more, with no consideration of things that cost less.

              As for Veblen goods, meh. Harvard was no bigger in 1980 than it is now. And it was probably harder for folks not in the elite to get into then than it is now. As for what it costs…

              “During the 2012-2013 academic year, students from families with incomes below $65,000, and with assets typical for that income level, will generally pay nothing toward the cost of attending Harvard College. Families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute from 0 to 10 percent of income, depending on individual circumstances. Significant financial aid also is available for families above those income ranges.

              “Harvard College launched a net price calculator into which applicants and their families can enter their financial data to estimate the net price they will be expected to pay for a year at Harvard. Please use the calculator to estimate the net cost of attendance.”

              Finally, for your income comparison to make sense, you have to factor in inflation. The 21 per cent increase is in constant dollars.

        • BaronvonRaschke

          You are absolutely right. In fact, compounded annually, it is not even .5%/year. Practically speaking, household income has been flat for 35 years. IOW, we have a society that works only for the professional classes. Comments like philadelphialawyer’s explain why we ended up with Trump. HRC championed the status quo and nonexistent recovery, he talked about the very real carnage in most of America. He is an incompetent fraud, but he had the right message. (The same goes for Obama 2008. He was a reformer, not.)

          • philadelphialawyer

            Why does annual compounding even enter it? It is not a savings account, but real, after tax income. A person on position X in the bottom half of the economic ladder made 20k in 1980. That same person now makes 24k. In real, inflation-adjusted dollars. A twenty per cent increase is not “flat,” any more than the Earth is. But don’t let the facts get in your way.

            And, folks like you are the reason we have Trump. Hillary and Obama and the Dems are not good enough for you, even though they are fighting against an entrenched, money interest dominated center right party that has all of the structural advantages.

            You know what, why bother?

            Just go fuck yourself.

            • BaronvonRaschke

              In a short post, you have shown the reason that Americans do so poorly in math tests relative to the rest of the world and that you are not too bright. Obama was not good enough for me because he failed to address economic insecurity and did not try to reform the banking system. The ACA was essentially a Heritage Foundation bill. I am very much a Sanders/Warren man, one from the Democrratic wing of the Democrayic Party. I held my nose and voted for HRC. The Dems, HRC, and Obama gave us Trump by having nothing to offer. By all means, nominate a woman whom half the country has hated for 25 years, and then blame the voters for their votes.

              • philadelphialawyer

                To take just one of your bullshit claims…there are nine million posts here at LGM (and also at BallonJuice, and elsewhere) that show why, in excruciating, mind-numbingly wonkish detail, I might add, the ACA is NOT “essentially a Heritage Foundation bill.” Go read them a few of them, genius boy. And the ACA is one important reason why folks in the bottom fifty per cent live better today than they did in 1980.

                And, again, GFY.

                • Mojrim ibn Harb

                  How are you not understanding that all increases over time are compound effects measured year to year? Anyway, Paul is hopelessly optimistic, the truth is far worse.

                  http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/

                • philadelphialawyer

                  What are you talking about? If I made twenty thousand in 1980, and now I make 24k, in 1980 dollars, I make twenty per cent more this year than I made in 1980. Where does “compounding” enter into it?

                  Here’s the chart. See Figure One.

                  http://equitablegrowth.org/research-analysis/economic-growth-in-the-united-states-a-tale-of-two-countries/

                  The real issue, as the article makes clear, is inequality. It is that most folks have not shared in the growth as much as would be fair, with the super rich getting way too much of it. But the bottom has gotten some of it. And so live twenty per cent better than they did forty years ago.

                  Sorry if that doesn’t fit the anti Clintons, anti Obama narrative, but it is the truth.

                • Mojrim ibn Harb

                  Christ, you’re stupid. Obviously, that would be 20% more over 40 years, but that’s not 0.5% annual growth. Each year is figured atop the previous year, just as with any other measure of interest or growth.

                  Maybe this will help?
                  https://www.mathsisfun.com/money/compound-interest.html

                • philadelphialawyer

                  Man, just keep digging.

                  “Obviously, that would be 20% more over 40 years, but that’s not 0.5% annual growth.”

                  It is half a percent increase per year. Over the goddamn baseline year. That is how the chart presents the numbers for each and every group. And, you said this: “all increases over time are compound effects measured year to year.” Which is flat out wrong. Again, look at the chart.

                  I understand what “compounding” means, moron. It is just not relevant here. Get it now?

                • Mojrim ibn Harb

                  Of course it’s compound, all growth is compound, always, without exception. You are clearly the spokesmodel for Dunning-Kruger.

                • philadelphialawyer

                  Huh? What is? The chart compares average middle class, inflation-adjusted, after tax income in 2014 to 1980. And shows a 21 per cent gain. No compounding. A poster (not me) chose to approximate that to .5 increase average per year (it is actually .6….as in 21/35). To which your boy then chimed in with the “compounding” bullshit. Which, for some reason, you can’t let go of. I never claimed the growth was .5 or .6 per cent on a compound basis. Only that is that much per year if you choose to average out the growth over the 35 year period, again, in comparison to the baseline year. So what the fuck is your point? The numbers are clear. Or, they are to everyone but you. OK? I know what compounding is. Really. So can you just stop with your stupid insults and either deal with those numbers or STFU.

                  Here is something else you might consider…the after tax chart shows a much better deal for the middle class than the pre tax one. That’s cuz of Democratic tax policies. At every level of government. Again, you’re welcome.

                • Mojrim ibn Harb

                  You really don’t understand how this works, do you? The 40 year growth is total, the result of compounding annual growth. We can look at 20% (easier that way) over 40 years, do the math, and average it to 0.45% per year. Interest (either loans or capital) is just a form of growth; all are compound.

                  The tax revolt (and subsequent alterations) are the result of wage stagnation. Further, the 20% figure is hopelessly optimistic; it’s closer to 8% over CPI in a period when productivity increased nearly 150%

                  That is terrible no matter how you slice it and also the reason SSA is headed for trouble.

                • philadelphialawyer

                  zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

                • Mojrim ibn Harb

                  My thoughts exactly.

              • I am very much a Sanders/Warren man, one from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

                And yet you claim Trump had the right message in your post just above. I call bullshit.

          • “Screw minorities and reward the 1%” was the right message?

            • BaronvonRaschke

              You and I knew that was the message, but the fooled his voters, didn’t he? Back from the days I worked in NYC in the 1980s for a large law firm and dealt with Trump’s company, I knew he was a stupid, malignant psychopath.

          • JKTH

            How do the Democrats win with a message of “Well, we had the White House for eight years and everything is still shitty. Maybe this time we’ll get it right?” And, uh, championing the status quo is not how I’d describe Clinton’s message at all.

            • armchair guerrilla

              How about: We had the WH for 8 years and things are a helluva lot better because of it, despite the nihilism of the opposition party? You pooh pooh rescuing us from a financial crisis, providing health insurance to 20 million, unemployment halved, global climate change agreement, etc. And, of course, every accomplishment realized despite fanatical, scorched-earth opposition. But go ahead, blame the Democrats for all the problems with the status quo. Look where that got us.

      • JKTH

        Starting in 1980 means that some of the income growth reflects higher female labor force participation/employment so even some of that growth is just an increase in hours.

        • philadelphialawyer

          Men’s participation in the labor force has declined since 1980. And continues to do so. While women’s participation has plateua’ed.

          As an aside, I find fascinating how folks want to nit pick, with either one-sided, cherry picked or totally subjective points, or with completely irrelevant information, the underlying data. Data which I did not present in the first place, and data which directly contradicts the thesis of “stagnation.”

          What about “compounding?” What about “Veblen” goods? What about women? What about the fact that some costs have risen more than the inflation average? Etc, etc.

          The emotional investment in the “White working class economic anxiety/stagnation” thesis seems very high. Fact is, WWC folks live pretty damn well. They mostly live in single family dwellings. They own vehicles. And smart phones. And big ass SUVs. And big ass TVs. They have cable or dish, and the internet. They have access to health care (thanks Obama, thanks Hillary).

          They voted for Trump because they are racist, sexist, bigoted assholes. Not because they are living as “bad” or worse than their parents lived in 1980. The data shows they are actually living substantially better. Again, sorry it doesn’t fit the “Dems lost cuz their neo lib sellouts” narrative.

  • pseudo-gorgias

    This is good to know but not surprising. The civil rights and voting rights acts were meant to address political and not economic disparities. And indeed I think that blacks now vote at roughly the same rate as whites. Didn’t they vote at even a higher clip in 2012. But we’ve never really had a broad based economic program for black integration. I dont know what such a program would like, but let’s admit it’s a much tougher lift than voting, because a) in an era of low growth for black households to rise white ones have to fall in both absolute and relative terms, and b) in a society that permits parents to make unlimited investments in their children it’s hard to envision (a) coming about.

    • Alesis

      I suspect it would require busing or something similar to it. Integration policy is the origin of storied “disconnect” between democrats and the white working class. The origin of the “limousine liberal” image.

      Integration is vital as policy. It directly targets one of the biggest policy problems in America life. But racism means it’s considered suicidal even in blue strongholds.

      • TJ

        Educational integration would be nice but is secondary to high quality schooling. Educational integration is mostly a pipe dream anyways since it increasingly involves transforming kids across district lines. And even when large, long and expensive investments are made educational integration often falls.

        Instead let’s focus on giving black kids great educations. To paraphrase Booker T. Washington we don’t have to go to school with y’all to be great. I take heat here for this but this is the 1 reason I and most other blacks support charter schools.

        • Alesis

          Separate but equal.

          That’s been a pipe dream for a lot longer than busing was.

          • TJ

            LOL.

            But on the real tell my friends who went to Spelman and Morehouse and FAMU and Howard and Hampton that they’re not equally educated as white people… Just be sure duck soon as you do.

            PS–By what magical thinking does attending school with a white kid improve a black kid’s intelligence? It’s not like we pickpocket your brain cells because you’re just a seat over now :-) . The integration impact on educational improvement is mostly a resource (of the school) and income (of the parents) improvement.

            • Alesis

              I attended an HBCU myself. I’m just not convinced that chest thumping is a substitute for public policy. People are not going to invest in schools their kids aren’t in.

              • TJ

                Oh, that’s great! But by the way, I don’t think it’s chest bumping.

                I think of it like this: The politics of changing de facto segregation are impossible, whereas the politics of improving schools is merely challenging.

                That’s the decision we face. I think the smarter bet is on the latter. Segregation today is a function of income and zoning policy and you’re not going to change that ever.

                • Alesis

                  We spent what 200 years trying to get separate education to work? And maybe 20 on integration.

                  I’m saying that if you’re arguing from realism then integration is the easier lift.

                  And statistically racial segregation is more ingrained than income segregation. By some measure twice as much.

                • TJ

                  Using your 20 year benchmark, what have been the relative gains in integration vs achievement?

                  During that time frame integration has dramatically declined no? While black educational achievement has increased yes? (more blacks attending college, more blacks graduating high school, black white test gap declining)

                  So if you have to place money on the next 20 years, I don’t understand the bet on integration, relative to achievement.

                • Alesis

                  The twenty years I speak of were between Brown and Miliken v Bradley and they did indeed coincide with sharp improvements in educational outcomes for black students. I’m not saying we haven’t continued to improve since NAEP scores are the best they’ve ever been I am however saying that integration yielded tangible benefits and abandoning it had measurable costs.

                • TJ

                  I’m not sure you’re familiar with it Alesis but if you are what are your thoughts on the Kansas City desegregation case?

                  Also how do think desegregation can surmount the need to bus kids increasingly long distances? You might have kids on the bus for 60-90 minutes?

                • Alesis

                  I’ve mostly discussed it in connection with the idea that school funding doesn’t matter at all. Hanusheck and the like.

                  I think it’s a pretty good example of the problem which a “high quality schools only” approache to racial education inequality.

                  And long bus rides are in my opinion more than worth the benefits of making public schools part of the national commons again.

                • BaronvonRaschke

                  Again, I agree.

                • TJ

                  Hmmm, so you don’t think long bus rides for minority school kids negatively impact their performance? Or contributes to dropping out?

                • TJ

                  Second question for you Alesis, what role do you think parental SES has on achievement levels vs. the school itself? Does parental SES explain, say, 80% of educational achievement or more like only 20%?

                  Where I have trouble with the prioritization of integration over quality improvement is the mechanics of how segregation is supposed to improve achievement? If it boils down to resource allocation the KC case weakens the argument that dramatically increasing resources will improve minority student performance. So if you take away that resource argument, what’s left to explain the mechanics of how minority educational performance is increased? Ogbu?

                  Where I tend to come down is that parental SES explains ~60-80% of educational outcome and that any resource benefits gained by integration litigation is more than matched by improving school finance equity through litigation.

                  Since the latter generates cross-racial coalitions it’s both a lighter lift and an equally effective one– unless you think that black kids learn better when seated next to white kids. I can’t quite convince myself why that would be true mechanically. Unless it’s some cultural positioning based on Ogbu. Thoughts?

                • Alesis

                  We have empirical studies on integration and it does have positive effects on achievement. Mechanisms are nice but results are better.

                  For what it’s worth the researchers who studied integration did point to class sizes and spending but in light of Kansas City it could be argued that other factors play a role. I’d argue that the core of the issue is political economy. A public resource that is used exclusively by black students is a resource with a very narrow base of support. Take the old arguments about means tested vs universal benefits and multiply them by about a hundred.

                  And to the extent long commutes contribute to declining metric we should address that alongside the political ecnibny problem.

                • TJ

                  Good discussion, thanks. Hope to continue having them the future. The reason I always bring “mechanics” (and I bring it up on most issues not just this one) is methodological. It’s difficult in the social sciences to tease out causation from correlation. Identifying and analyzing the mechanics allows you to more readily do that. Wearing rain coats is highly correlated rain, but does wearing rain coats cause rain or vice versa? Well because we know the mechanics, we know that rain causes the uptick in rain coat use.

                  So for instance my read of the integration data is that integrated schools include higher income blacks than highly segregated schools do, so the educational impact you see primarily reflects parental SES, not better school processes… Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on other subjects the future!

                • Alesis

                  I should point out that the studies we do have include sibling data which bybits nature controls for parental income.

              • BaronvonRaschke

                Bingo. At secondary ed level, the problem is known as white flight. Those high schools get all of the resources and money.

    • The issue is capital distribution. Unless and until black people have equal access and ownership of capital there won’t be a closing of the gap. It’s difficult to see how this can be accomplished short of an absolute revolution in social and economic structures.

      We really, really fucked up on not delivering the 40 acres and a mule.

      • TJ

        Amen and amen! Can a brotha get his 40 acres–preferably in downtown Manhattan–and his mule–preferably American African Pharoah?

      • mattmcirvin

        Even the inadequate measures that existed got blamed for the 2008 crash by idiots on CNBC.

      • DaftPunkd
    • BaronvonRaschke

      The hope was that by addressing de jure discrimination, we would help blacks close the gap. Because of de facto discrimination and the legacy of slavery, that had not happened. We do need a strong program of economic integration, but I don’t see that happening in this climate.

  • Alesis

    The period after 1968 has vanished into something of a national memory hole where it race relations but considering the abandonment of substantive integration efforts in the wake of Milliken v. Bradley it’s little surprise.

    As a country we are quite comfortable having a color coded underclass and efforts to address this were half hearted and short lived. Liberals hardly even bring it up these days.

    • TJ

      You’re right that liberalism has done poor job integrating racial perspectives, despite Obama being in office until just a few months ago.

      As I’ve occasionally brought up there’s a tension between the majority black perspective and liberalism. Sometimes we agree, often we don’t (eg, charter schools, religion).

      • Nym w/o Qualities

        This is a natural result of GOP racism. Black Democrats will naturally include more conservatives than do white Democrats, who are in the party just for ideological reasons.

    • Drew

      One of the all time worst scotus decisions

    • BaronvonRaschke

      You are quite right and it is the reason I refuse to be a liberal. When a society is busy screwing its entire working class, and it whitewashes racism, blacks will be screwed worse and harder. Let’s not forget Clinton and his 1994 crime bill which supplied the steroids to the war on drugs. I consider myself a progressive, because I want to attack the status quo, the criminal bankers and politicos who have screwed us alike for at least 40 years, blacks more than whites.

      • FlipYrWhig

        And of course better-than-liberal Bernie Sanders voted… for that bill.

  • TJ

    America has achieved exactly zero progress in improving the economic status of African Americans relative to that of whites:

    And don’t I know it! :-D

    • sibusisodan

      Have you settled on being TJ now? Or will Norrin Radd be dropping by from time to time?

      • It’ll be NR, not Norrin Radd: capital distribution.

      • Drew

        Surprised he’s showing up here again. Block feature is a godsend.

        • Now if only more of us remembered that feature even exists…

  • The inequality is surprising why?

    • Just_Dropping_By

      That there is inequality is not surprising; the fact that it appears there’s been virtually no reduction in the margin of inequality is what is surprising.

  • MidwestVillager

    The impression I have is that fixing this probably means actually desegregating schools and housing and unfortunately when you start talking about changing people’s neighborhoods and their children’s schools their nominal ideologies tend to go out the window and be replaced by mass opposition whether they claim to be left, right, or anything in between. I really don’t know enough about how the few places where this has happened have pulled it off but the impression I get is that segregation is the single hardest political problem to solve in this country and, with the possible exception of carbon emissions, the most important one.

    • TJ

      You’ve said a lot here. A whole lot. You’re right that ideology goes out the window when comes to your kids and your neighbors.

      And that’s much of the reason blacks have subordinated integration to achievement. We don’t need integrated schools as much we need high quality schools, and if arguably the most liberal state in the Union has gotten worse at segregating than Texas (mercurynews.com/2014/05/14/report-california-among-worst-in-the-nation-in-school-segregation) then segregation as a policy is dead. Marinate on that a minute.

    • I think that integration, while neccessary, good and right, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as a solution to this problem.

      The basic distribution problem is that the distribution of wealth and income in the black population mirrors what the white populations would be if you cut it off at the 75th percentile and rescaled. Integrated public schools even with a good busing set up aren’t going to by themselves give black people access to the privileges and advantages of the top 25 percent on any meaningful scale.

      • Alesis

        The housing aspect of segregation speaks to the wealth barrier. I known it’s considered verboten in the US but Singapore mandates integrated housing and we could try and model that if we cared to.

        • Again, maybe laudable, but people living in apartments or neighborhoods where that is even remotely feasible will still be in the bottom 75% of white income.

        • Gareth

          In Singapore, you also need a police permit for any outdoor assembly or procession. I suppose that would help if you wanted to push integration through without those nasty protests.

      • MidwestVillager

        When I’m thinking about ending segregation as necessary to changing the economic gap I’m largely thinking about the way that racial segregation produces a level of concentrated poverty in black neighborhoods that doesn’t exist for a statistically meaningful number of white people (see for example the Pew report written by Patrick Sharkey). Concentrated poverty has devastating impacts on educational outcomes and future economic mobility and racial segregation means that even affluent blacks tend to live in areas of concentrated disadvantage.

        • I can’t help but think there’s a background assumption here of a latent meritocratic, color-blind society, just waiting to be actualized by the scales falling from suburbanite eyes– so that if we equalized opportunity in terms of education and access to basic public services and decent housing, the problems of wealth and income inequality along racial lines would take care of themselves.

          That’d be nice, but I don’t think this is the case. The main forces keeping the black community from economically thriving are, in bulk, the same forces that keep anybody (poor white, immigrants, etc.) born outside the capitalist class from thriving in the capitalist system– lack of ownership of capital– only compounded with the historical prejudices and disadvantages that come with being black on top of that.

          To fix the problem, you’d need to attack the means by which the capitalist system achieves such a strong level of social/class reproduction. School integration and housing programs do affect this, but the real gains we’re talking would require a much bigger lift, and would have to hit the top 25% of white income earners as well as the bottom 75%. Mass redistribution on the scale of “40 acres +mule” would have been a way of doing that back in Reconstruction, but it or some similar form of direct reparations in the form of land/capital isn’t going to happen today, and even if it had happened back then the racism/white-supremacy of the times would likely had turned it into something akin to the Indian reservation system–not encouraging. The things you’d need to do today to fix the problem would rightfully be called a revolutionary change in government.

          The common sense policies: better (integrated) schools, better (guaranteed!) jobs, better (integrated) housing, are all good and all do help. But they aren’t going to get us where we need to be. That will take some real deep structural changes to how our society works.

        • Deborah Bender

          There are neighborhoods in SF and Oakland where just having to live in them is a violation of your civil rights. So much inescapable random violence, much of it fueled by the drug trade.

          I would like to see a program that gave every single person who lives in an urban neighborhood that has a high rate of violent crime enough money and income support, for say a five year period, that they can move somewhere else if they want to. Every single person: the families, the grandmothers, the gang bangers.

  • FlipYrWhig

    A genuine populist movement would unite working- and middle-class Americans of all backgrounds

    Number of “genuine populist movements” that have ever happened, then? I’m going to say “zero” and I’m going to say “because of persistent racial divisions.”

    • ChiefOfStaffCaptainHowdy

      Continuing to this day with left populist movements that say minority issues are “identity politics” and “don’t matter”.

  • drdick52

    Great piece and needs saying repeatedly. There is no dimension on which African Americans do not fare worse than whites, including health outcomes, infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy, education, or anything else, even when you control for economic differences. Additionally, there is a huge body of research showing that health disparities are, at least partially a direct result of the impacts of systematic racism.

    • Deborah Bender

      I believe what you say about the health disparities because being subjected to racial animus day in and day out is stressful, and medical professionals are as likely to be racist as anyone else.

  • kvs

    The focus on income is likely to mask what’s actually an increase in inequality since the Great Recession. Black wealth was disproportionately wiped out by the housing crisis.

  • tsam100

    The snark isn’t so much about the economic anxiety as it is about putting faith in policies that are designed to further their economic damage. I don’t really know what else to do about it besides vote for people who support better policies and make myself feel better by mocking them…?

  • Unree

    Minority view, maybe: As a semi-lurker, I am glad ThrottleJockey came back. I missed his voice and feel willing to forgive whatever it was he did with that Norrin Radd nym. My first choice for a prodigal return remains Abbey/Bartlet but this news is good news. joefromLowell, you’re doing fine, stay where you are.

    • I got the impression (I don’t know how) that A/B had merely dropped that/those nym(s) and was still among us.

      • Unree

        Agree, but which comments are hers?

    • Anna in PDX

      JFl could be interesting when he was not arguing about arguing. Which admittedly was not that often.

  • david spikes

    Hate to say anything even tangentially favorable to Trump but if he’s serious about forcing congress to do something, anything, to wreck the ACA ,then tax “reform” is dead this year. Because tax reform since Reagan always means skew things even further in favor of the top 1%. So you go Donnie, just sit in your office and refuse to play nice.

    • Deborah Bender

      The House leadership does not need Trump’s permission to take up bills or to drop them. Pence can go over there and talk to them, and they will listen to him, but they don’t have to do what he asks.

      • david spikes

        You totally missed the point but thanks for the civics lesson.

  • EvanHarper

    I don’t want to minimize the very serious and concerning points made here, and in particular I acknowledge that income from work is qualitatively different from income from government programs in a way that people value.

    But… it does not make sense to say that America has achieved exactly zero progress in improving the relative economic status of African Americans. They are getting much more in-kind support relative to Whites than they were in 1967. They’ve only “made no progress” when you look at wages. Which is very serious! But it’s not the same as “no economic progress.”

    • I think the important notion here is exactly what constitutes “economic progress”. If it’s progress in consumption, then you are right. But the kind of economic progress people really want isn’t just in terms of consumption, but in terms of control of production and thus their economic lives. Blacks are still all but systematically excluded from obtaining the level of income and wealth necessary for capital formation, and thus the ability to exert economic control of their environment and lives in a capitalist system.

      There’s a prickly criticism from the Left (and maybe eccentric, Clarence Thomas types on the right too) here that this is in fact a feature of the capitalist welfare state, not a bug. I personally think it’s a bug, but a very, very big bug.

      • Zytor-LordoftheSkies

        “Blacks are still all but systematically excluded from obtaining the level of income and wealth necessary for capital formation”

        Lol! I mean, seriously. Do you actually BELIEVE that people who are given every possible advantage at every step in their lives, who are handed hundreds of free points in college admissions, who have corporate America drooling to hire them if they are even marginally capable, who have bee-line access to government jobs at every level, who are LEGALLY advantaged over whites in hiring and firing — that these people are “systematically excluded”? It’s laughable.

        • I believe you’re looking for the Stormfront comment boards.

          But, if you could could take the time to explain to me, exactly how many “hundreds” of free “points” do black people get in college admissions? Can you link to the “colored” application section that bee-lines one to a government job? Where in the US or state codes is this law which legally advantages them in hiring and firing, I haven’t heard of it? And can I get at least one photograph of a hiring manager “drooling” over a black person with a BA?

          • Zytor-LordoftheSkies

            Well here’s a start on the college admissions one.

            http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-adv-asian-race-tutoring-20150222-story.html#page=1

            And the answer is 230 points.

            As for the rest, ain’t my job to do your research Spanky. So git on it. Start by searching on “the totally obvious to everyone except for delusional Progressives” and go from there.

            • It is your job to back up claims with evidence if you want to be taken seriously. I appreciate you taking that time with the admissions, I think you’d find an actual investigation of the other points enlightening.

              Of course, the fact that the effect of affirmative action policies, taken to redress the exact structural disadvantages which I spoke of, can be regressed onto test scores does not mean that there is an actual “points plus” system at work.

              There may be such a formula at some schools, but you could also regress the admission outcomes onto any quantitative variables that partition the population along racial lines and get a significant finding. Of course, all this amounts to saying is that the tests differences serve as a surrogate for whatever disadvantages blacks face, and the fact that zeroing that bias out produces a significant change would be evidence for the structural disadvantages existence, not against it.

              • For the benefit of any lurkers, the exact article that Zytor apparently read the first paragraph of fishing for race bait mentioned this phenomena: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5563891

                Basically the argument of our white supremacist friend here is that the existence of policies to redress obvious facts constitute a refutation of those facts. The inside of his head must look like an M.C. Escher drawing in mismatched crayon.

  • Zytor-LordoftheSkies

    What a lot of nonsense. Steve Sailer and his commenters eviscerate this vile, anti-white hatred.

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/nyt-white-economic-privilege-is-alive-and-well/

    • JKTH

      Well I’m convinced.

  • cuchulain

    “I outline here what ought to be the astounding fact that, more than a half century [later] America has achieved exactly zero progress in improving the economic status of African Americans relative to that of whites.”

    Right. So you’re admitting the socialist and corrupt attempt at your kind to subjugate the most vulnerable under dependency has failed to lift the std of living… with the feature that we now have an unsustainable national dependency entitlement debt your kind needs to lay on the rest of us. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Glad to hear it. I hope you plan on further mea culpa to follow !
    Now go back to your bellybutton lint fondling and spewing your vomit – in private.
    We don’t want it.

  • Larry

    What is the source of the data?

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