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Consider this data from a study by Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy, of the median wealth, not including home equity, of white families versus black families:

in 1984, Whites -  22,000   Blacks - 2,000    difference  20,000

in 2007, Whites - 100,000   Blacks - 5,000    difference  95,000

(the figures are from a study by the Urban Institute)

Or as Derrick Jackson puts in, in an op ed titled An elusive payoff (subtitled "Gains elsewhere belie a wealth gap for black families"),

The study said the gap in 1984 amounted to a couple years of public college tuition. Today, the gap would fund "full tuition at a four-year public university for two children, plus tuition at a public medical school."

Jackson offers further data which shows how severe the gap is becoming.   Consider these median figures

High income white families   240,000
Middle income white families  74,000

High income black families    18,000

Of course I urge you to read all of Jackson's column.  He and the author of the study make clear that the disparity is not because blacks are less wise with their money.  There is still disparity in lending - for housing and for home equity loans - that "disproportionately forces black families into more onerous financial arrangements."  Blacks may take on higher debt or pay disproportionate rates for education, and seem to have a stronger propensity to help out extended family.  That means that rather than accumulating wealth from income equivalent to white families, they have to spend more.

And, as Thomas Shapiro, co-author of the study points out,

according to the Pew Economic Mobility Project, the vast majority of federal deductions and benefits to enhance upward mobility ended up in the hands of the wealthiest Americans. For instance, between 72 percent and 98 percent of deductions for retirement savings, health insurance, home mortgages, self-employed health insurance, and preferential rates on capital gains in 2006 went to the top 20 percent of income-earning Americans.

I want to try to connect this to education, the field I know the best.  We have known for years of the correlation between performance on test and family socioeconomic status.  Since Blacks (and Hispanics) are, compared to whites, disproportionally lower on the SES scale, there so-called achievement gap has been to a large degree an artifact of the the disparity of income.  

But it is also in part an artifact of the disparity of wealth.  Jackson begins with noting that the percentage of African Americans living in suburbs has now crossed the 50% mark.  Yet in many cases those are the inner ring of suburbs, with older, less valuable, housing stock.  That provides a lower tax base for the communities in which they are located, which therefore means less revenue for the local government to devote to schools.

I teach in Prince George's County Maryland, which by income is the wealthiest majority black political jurisdiction in the US.  Unlike some states, Maryland has relatively few school districts, only 24:  the City of Baltimore and each of the 23 counties.  While Prince George's has some wealthy neighborhoods, some of which have substantial numbers of Black families and increasing numbers of racially mixed familis, the inner ring of suburbs adjacent to Washington DC are very heavily Black, include most of the County's Hispanics, and are disproportionally poorer.  And while the County taxes property at a uniform rate, the lower value of homes in those neighborhoods reduces the overall revenue available for education across the County, not just in those neighborhoods.

Further, students from families of lesser wealth do not gain the same advantages from family income equal to those of white families with greater wealth.  There is less ability to respond to crises.  This includes things like opportunity for educationally related enrichment.

That is the immediate situation.  The long-term prognosis should also concern us.  Families with greater wealth are able to pass that on to the next generation.  That means the disproportion we see now will, if we do not address it, increase over time.  Or, as Jackson puts it in his final sentence For too many achieving families, the American Dream is still a restless night.

a restless night -  ponder that image.

We have a President of Color.   We have increasing numbers of high achievers coming from families of color.  We are beginning to overcome the intolerance that has existed towards children of marriages of mixed color.  Persons of color increasingly are in positions of power and influence.

And yet, the United States Senate has had since direct election of its members only 4 Blacks, never more than 1 at a time.  

While CEOs and university presidents are now occasionally black, the inequality that so concerned this nation a half century ago during the Great Society has still not been overcome, not when the disparity in wealth is increasing.

I offer no solutions.  I am not an economist.  As a teacher, I see the impact of the disparity of wealth.  As a citizen I realize that the problem will not disappear if we ignore it, and we cannot address it until we are willing to examine it honestly.

We have gone through several decades where economic policies of our national government have disproportionately favored those already well-off.  That disproportionately favored Whites.  

We are not yet in a post-racial society.

And this child of White, upper-middle class privilege thinks it is time we are honest with ourselves, and recognize that even if we do not talk about it, race is still an issue in this nation, at least economically.

The American Dream should be color blind.  After all, we now know a child of color can grow up to be President.  

But the dream should not be just for the few big achievers.  It should encompass all of our families.

A dream, not a night of tossing and turning, worrying about the future,

The American Dream, not a restless night.

That's my reaction to reading Jackson this morning.

What do you think?


Originally posted to teacherken on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:12 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think that when our leaders won't tell (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex, tonyahky, KVoimakas

    the truth, they enable people to remain willfully ignorant.
    Like when my sister-in-law says that it's impossible for a white person to get a municipal job in Houston.
    It's time for some honesty all the way around. Thanks for the diary, Ken.

    "The kid in the combat gear is dead because the men in the suits failed."-me

    by porchdog1961 on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:20:40 AM PDT

  •  I think race will always be an issue in this (4+ / 0-)

    country. Secluded places with hardly any non-Caucasians don't exactly lend themselves to open mindedness or anything that veers from the status quo.

    For example: I live in a place where I would guess that a distinct majority of the people are racist to a degree that's considered above the norm (I'm also of the belief that everyone is a little prejudiced, it's all a matter of degree. Admitting it and working on it is a great way to get started.) Why do I say that the people around here are prejudiced?

    Multiple instances of the n-word being used and not just with regards to blacks.

    Natives are timber-ni*****.
    Arabs are towel-headed (or sand) ni*****.
    I could go on, but you get my point. This isn't something that is said in private either.

    The non-Caucasian population where I live is ridiculously low. The best way to combat ignorance is with familiarity. How do you obtain any kind of relationship (working, friendship, acquaintance, etc) with someone if you don't ever see them?

    It's like the "Be afraid of teh gays!!" thing. I think actually knowing people who are gay (and out) would be a big step towards removing the smears associated with them by homophobes. (All gays are promiscuous! All gays want to ruin hetereosexual marriage! All gays want to...blah blah blah.)

    Ahh, so to sum up, I think race will always be a problem in this country since there will always be enclaves of close-minded-ism where you won't get any experience with those you should FEAR for whatever reason.

    And because I missed it yesterday: nice diary about the government being here to help.

    MF and RKBA Member. This bear keeps and bears arms. -9.00, -4.05

    by KVoimakas on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:24:27 AM PDT

  •  When the funding of public education (8+ / 0-)

    is explicitly tied to property values, then how can there not be disparities in education quality? And if we allow vouchers or deductions to allow people to pay for private education, public education is further starved. And the contribution of states further increases the vulnerability of public education by using lotteries and gambling revenues as the foundation.

    Yet, all the discussion about education seems to be on outcomes without anyone paying attention to how education is funded in our society. It is what convinces me that educational disparities are the goal to protect the already privileged in our society.

    Please help the people of Haiti

    by DWG on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:30:25 AM PDT

  •  Teacherken is there a typo (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in your 1984 line:

    Whites -  22,000   Blacks - 2,000    difference  22,000

    Difference should be 20,000, no?

    Great article as always.

  •  Spot on...this is exactly why most must (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rontun, Egalitare, KVoimakas

    understand Affirmative Action is an equal rights action to the most under privileged. The cycle will continue and some are just fine with it. The disposition of many coming out of these poor families is Jail...the Modern Day Enslavement Institution made for Corporations.

    This is my equal rights issue and have been thinking about this a lot. Obama must target this repressive system of racial oppression and systemic racism head on. While I think he understand it, I am patient to let him do his thing and expect a profound and fundimental action early in the second term.

    Knowing how personal this issue is for me, I will however still RESPECT my President.

    Thank you for this diary. Tipped, Rec'ed and hotlinked.

    ...We have many more issues that bind us together than separate us!

    by ThisIsMyTime on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:55:20 AM PDT

  •  Investment in the poor communities (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies

    is the only reasonable and American answer.

    Fund community centers, elementary schools, healthcare centers, athletics, and technical/job training pointed toward poor communities.

    The old adage about leading a horse is only half-complete; I believe you need to teach some horses to drink as well as lead them to the well.

    On the wheel of ideology, the cogs of communism and fascism are close. -1, -1.59

    by Liberaltarianish on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:24:09 AM PDT

  •  What American dream? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anastasia p

    The lie that rich men have told to get poor people to work hard so their children will do better.

    Stopped believing with the installation of Bush.

    LeBron James is worth way more than any Wall Street (loan shark) banker.

    by J Brunner Fan on Tue May 18, 2010 at 05:32:37 AM PDT

  •  dear Ken (5+ / 0-)

    thank you for all the work you do in your writing. I may not always comment in your diaries, but I read them.
    Good stuff, my cyber ally.

    by TexMex on Tue May 18, 2010 at 06:23:48 AM PDT

  •  Focusing on helping the underclass... (0+ / 0-)

    ...rather than a race, is much more sensible.

    "Here's the book on Alan Greenspan: He thinks what everybody else thinks, but one fiscal quarter later." -- James Grant

    by dov12348 on Tue May 18, 2010 at 06:39:47 AM PDT

    •  The real issue (0+ / 0-)

      Benefits almost always fall disproportionately on those who are middle class or well-to-do. Politicians know who their constituents are - and it's not the needy. So naturally the lack thereof will disproportionately impact minorities, who tend to be poor.

      Look at health care. Prior to the new health care system, the majority of government benefits - outside of Medicare and VA - went to those with good jobs that provided them with tax-subsidized health insurance. The poor got crappy Medicaid when they qualified, and nothing but the right to pay taxes to subsidize the rich when they did not.

      Now? Those who couldn't afford insurance will end up paying most or all of premiums for junk insurance policies that will result in them paying large deductibles and copays. The "costs" of the new system have been shifted onto those least able to be able to shoulder the burden.

      The benefits that have kicked in so far - no longer permitting pre-existing conditions for newborns and permitting children up to 26 years of age to remain on their parents' policies - go exclusively to those who can afford to pay. No poor people need apply.

      "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

      by Angela Quattrano on Tue May 18, 2010 at 08:39:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "...impact minorities who tend to be poor." (0+ / 0-)

        Then why not go one better and just focus on the poor, period?

        "Here's the book on Alan Greenspan: He thinks what everybody else thinks, but one fiscal quarter later." -- James Grant

        by dov12348 on Tue May 18, 2010 at 10:57:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  These numbers are garbage (0+ / 0-)

    I know at least a dozen AA families with earnings over $100K -- there is no way that $18K is high end for AA families.

    $18K is $9 an hour... my teenage daughter makes that scooping ice cream.

    Census workers make more than this...

    Given all of the African American doctors, lawyers, college professors and other professionals, this simply can not be true.

    •  median family wealth not including home equity (0+ / 0-)

      not income.  

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Tue May 18, 2010 at 09:09:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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