New study raises questions, sheds light on race and income inequality

The Washington Post reports on a study comparing black and white incomes. The study found that virtually nowhere in the United States do black boys grow up to earn incomes equivalent to white boys raised in the same neighborhoods by parents with comparable wealth and education levels. The disparity holds true even for black boys raised in the wealthiest of families, who grew up on the same block in the same affluent community and attended the same school as their white counterparts.

What’s the explanation? My first thought was that it might lie in differences in family structure. Perhaps, across all income levels, young black men grow up in less stable families.

It’s true that, in general, young black men labor under this disadvantage. But as I read the study, family structure does not explain differences in black and white incomes among those raised in families with comparable income in comparable neighborhoods. The authors state:

Black children are much more likely to grow up in single parent households with less wealth and parents with lower levels of education — all factors that have received attention as potential explanations for black-white disparities.

But when we compare the outcomes of black and white men who grow up in two-parent families with similar levels of income, wealth, and education, we continue to find that the black men still have substantially lower incomes in adulthood. Hence, differences in these family characteristics play a limited role in explaining the gap.

Is the gap, then, explained by racism? Perhaps, but two clues suggest otherwise.

First, the Black-White income gap observed by the study exists only for men. Controlling for the income of parents and the neighborhood in which children are raised eliminates any income disparity between white and black women. If anything, black women apparently make out slightly better than their white counterparts.

Does white racism extend only to black males. It’s possible, I suppose. But someone should explain why that’s the case. I always figured that if you’re anti-black, you’re anti-black regardless of gender. Certainly, women were not exempt from Jim Crow laws.

Second, the study found that, black males are more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to attend college than their white counterparts from families of similar income level. Herein lies the answer, I think. Black boys/men are faring worse with regard to income than similarly situated white boys/men because of the decisions they make — e.g., decisions about whether to engage in crime and whether to attend college.

Leftists contend that blacks are incarcerated at higher rates than whites because of racism in the criminal justice system. I don’t believe this. But let’s assume it’s true and focus on the fact, established by the survey, that black boys are less likely to attend college than white boys from the same background.

Is this because of racism? Surely not. Colleges aren’t discriminating against blacks in admissions. To the contrary, most colleges are discriminating in favor of blacks, via race-based preferences that enable blacks to obtain admission with significantly worse credentials — grades and especially test scores — than whites.

And keep in mind that black women are doing fine compared to their white counterparts — both as to income and college admission. Are we supposed to believe that college admissions officials are discriminating against black men but not black women? The notion is ridiculous.

Are black boys being knocked or routed off the college track earlier in the process, as compared to white boys from similar circumstances? This notion too seems implausible.

Who is doing the knocking and how are they accomplishing it? Are racist guidance counselors discouraging black boys, but not black girls, from taking college track courses and/or from applying for college? Are racist teachers giving bad grades to black boy, but not black girls, for no good reason? Are they suspending them without good cause?

Few will have consumed enough identity politics Kool-Aid to believe that this is what’s going on. The logical explanation for the disparities observed in the study is that, across all income lines, young black males, to a disproportionate extent, are behaving in ways that do not optimize their future earnings.

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