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May. 24 2010 - 9:33 pm | 77 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Race, marriage and economic mobility

C.H. at Democracy in America flags a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts on the effect of marriage on economic mobility for children:

Messrs DeLeire and Lopoo find that marriage has a positive effect on economic mobility for children of all races. Among those who are born in the bottom third of the income distribution, 50% of those born to married parents climbed to the middle or top third as adults. Only 26% of those whose parents divorce moved up. Somewhat surprisingly, a greater share of those born to single mothers moved up, 42%, but the size of this sample is relatively small.

Nevertheless, marriage explains only part of the gap in mobility rates between white and black children. Fifty-six percent of all black children in the middle class fall to the bottom third as adults, compared with 30% of white children. But when parents are continuously married, this 26-point gap shrinks to 12 points. For many other measures, though, family structure only slightly reduced the racial gap in mobility rates. “On the whole, family structure is not the culprit,” explains Mr DeLeire.

I don’t have any firm numbers here, but my hunch tells me that part of the achievement gap among children is attributable to the housing segregation. Middle-class blacks face significant housing discrimination, and on average, are far more segregated than any other racial or ethnic group of comparable means. Large numbers of middle-class blacks are clustered in disproportionately poor neighborhoods, which tend suffer from poor schools and other social services. What’s more, middle-class blacks have fewer educational opportunities than their white counterparts and they lack access to the “achievement networks” that characterize white middle class life.

One of effect of this clustering is to put middle-class blacks (who tend to fall on the lower end of the “middle-class” distribution) in close relational and geographic proximity to poverty. Far more so than most other racial groups, middle-class blacks have significant ties to those below them on the socio-economic ladder. The downside to this, is that for all the positive opportunities these relational networks offer, they can also provide easy access to criminal opportunities. Mary Pattilo-McCoy examines this in detail in her book, Black Picket Fences, and I recommend reading it. To get back to my original point though, it seems that at least some of the difference in outcomes has to do with this housing segregation, and its implications for education and social networks.


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  1. collapse expand

    This post really got me to thinking!

    And you know_I believe the REAL culprit responsible for “the GAP” in darn near ALL pertinent areas of Black life/ “achievement” in America (“race, marriage, education and upward economic mobility,” housing) is the total BREAKDOWN of Black families in nightmarishly HIGH numbers, over the past 35-40 years!

    That breakdown has undoubtedly led to all kinds of negative consequences: High rates of school drop-outs, criminal activity involvement, incarcerations, drug addiction, DEALY youth/gang violence, babies having babies, with approx 70% of Black babies now born out of wedlock to single parents ill-equipped to be responsible for themselves let alone rearing a child/children.

    Taking those facts AND MORE into account, predictably in most cases the only thing that is passed on to too many “babies born to babies” is a life of dysfunction, poverty, hopelessness and despair.

    For many Black individuals and families living that reality the socioeconomic label of “Black middle-class” simply does NOT apply. They are the “Black lower-class” and “working poor.” To the degree that “discrimination” is a contributing factor: It’s secondary, IMO.

    To the degree that “segregation” (“racial isolation” and economic poverty): It’s self-imposed, IMO.

    By the very nature of the families we’re born into, the principles and values we’re taught in the home FIRST, and then the community, as we grow into adulthood and the choices WE make _all of that greatly determines the course of our lives, whether we seek higher education, get good paying jobs, where we live, where our children attend school and the quality of the education they receive …etc. etc.

    “We” (collective Black America) can look high and low for “causes” in the “Gaps.” But until “We” address the REAL culprit (the breakdown of the Black family) Openly and Honestly “We” will continue to be negatively effected and lose ground!

    My family “ain’t” perfect. Far from it_lol. But I come from a very hard-working, God fearing, education-loving Black family. And we (my sibs and I) were taught (by example) the strength and values of each of those qualities. And most of all we were taught the strength and value of FAMILY.

    Once again, I apologize for the long post.

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    I am a blogger and occasional freelance writer. Usually, you'll find me here, but I occasionally contribute to PostBourgie.com, as well as Spencer Ackerman's blog (when he's away). At my old Wordpress digs, I blogged about progressive politics, public policy, nerdy things and food, and here at True/Slant, I intend to do the same. I'm all about the social media, so feel free to follow me on Twitter: jbouie, or friend me on Facebook (though I might make you wait awhile). And if you'd rather avoid social media, you can always email me at jamelle DOT bouie AT gmail DOT com.

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