Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in which Martin Luther King gave his famous "I have a dream" speech. This was a turning point in race relations in the US, but "race" is such an unfortunately volatile topic that we need to keep track of progress. Figure 10.5 in the 11th edition of my text shows the gap in family income of Whites and Blacks in the US since data were first collected by the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey in 1947. From 1947 to the early 1960s, black family income hovered around 55 percent of white family income. In the mid-1960s the ratio jumped up to nearly 70 percent, but it has since slipped back down to 63 percent, according to data from the 2011 Current Population Survey (the latest available data). This means that since Martin Luther King's speech and the changes that came along with the Civil Rights Movement, the income of the average black family has risen slightly faster than white family income, but the gap in absolute income has actually widened and, importantly, there has not been much improvement lately.
Some of the gap is due to the different family structures between whites and blacks, as conservative pundits such as Bill O'Reilly have been pushing. While it is true that a higher fraction of black than white families are headed by females (pushing down income because there is only one earner and she is likely to earn less than a male), even among married-couple households, black families are earning only 86 percent of what white families earn. Education, as always, is a good predictor of income, and for both black and white families we can see that the more educated is the head of household, the higher is the income, yet the income gap exists at every educational level. The gap is greatest among those with less than a high school diploma--where blacks earn only 60 percent of what whites earn. But even for those holding a doctorate, blacks are earning only 89 percent of what whites make. An improvement, to be sure, but still a gap. What explains the gap? In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it seems reasonable to conclude that discrimination is the causal factor. There is still work to do here.
This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org