Virtual Voices

Income gap gapes wider

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A Pew Research Center polls reveals that more African Americans are pessimistic about the future. Only one in five said life in the United States is better for blacks than it was five years ago, and the number of those optimistic that things will get better has gone down from 57% in 1986 to 44% today.

A new analysis of Census data shows some causes for the pessimism. The study finds that income has increased for both blacks and whites, but at different rates. The income gap between black and whites is gaping wider: In 1974, median black incomes were 63 percent of median white incomes, but by 2004, median black incomes had fallen to 58 percent of white incomes.

An intergenerational analysis identifies another troubling trend. In middle class black families, a majority of children eventually fall below their parent's income, whereas a majority of children in middle class white families eventually exceed their parent's income.

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Marc Morial of the National Urban League blames the gap on "inadequate schools in black neighborhoods, workplace discrimination and too many black families with only one parent." According to the Pew poll, the number of African Americans who blame discrimination has gone down since the 1990s. Today only three in ten blame discrimination for their struggles, and 53% say that blacks who don't move ahead are responsible for their lack of success.

Christine Kim, domestic policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, told WoW she agrees that family structure contributes to the problem. A 2001 Heritage Foundation Study found that black and white children living in identical family circumstances had the same probability of living in poverty. The trend towards single-parent households is increasing for both races, she said: "It's been going on for many decades and it's been happening across the board for many different families, not just the black families."

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