Economic Mobility of Black and White Families

Nov 13, 2007

The dream that one can rise up from humble beginnings and achieve a comfortable middle-class living, if not attain great wealth, transcends racial lines. But is this a reality for black and white families alike?

This report, by Julia Isaacs of The Brookings Institution, reviews overall income trends based on Census Bureau data and provides an intergenerational analysis based on a longitudinal data set that allows a direct match of the family income of parents in the late 1960s to their children’s family income in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

In brief, trends show that median family incomes have risen for both black and white families, but less so for black families. Moreover, the intergenerational analysis reveals a significant difference in the extent to which parents are able to pass their economic advantages onto their children. Whereas children of white middle-income parents tend to exceed their parents in income, a majority of black children of middle-income parents fall below their parents in income and economic status. These findings are provided in more detail below.

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