jeudi, novembre 15, 2007

What's Going On?

Pew Charitable Trusts will issue a report today with startling news about African-Americans and downward mobility. A related article is found here.

The study might also apply to me. I was born to a middle class family (my father, a dentist, died when I was 8; my mother is a retired Psychiatric Nurse and mental health counselor). I never really had a sense for my parents income (or my mother’s), but I grew up with everything I needed and most of what I wanted.

Many African-Americans, who had a background similar to my own, have now fallen into the lowest income quintile.

Some quotes from the article referenced above:

For every parental income group, white children are more likely than black children to move ahead of their parents' economic rank, while black children are more likely than white children to fall behind."

Forty-five percent of black children whose parents were "solidly middle income" fall back into the lowest earnings bracket, compared with just 16 percent of white children.

Forty-two percent of children born to parents at the bottom of the income distribution remain at the bottom while 39 percent born to parents at the top, stay at the top.

From a different article (which may require a login):

…the reduction has been more dramatic for black men than whites. And income for white women, who were less likely than black women to work outside the home a generation ago, has grown faster than it has for black women. Black women earned a median income of $21,000 in 2004, almost equal to that of white women. Black men had a median income of $25,600, less than two-thirds that of white men.

Another reason so many middle-class blacks appear to be downwardly mobile is likely the huge wealth gap separating white and black families of similar incomes. For every $10 of wealth a white person has, blacks have $1.

I’m pretty sure that I have exceeded the income of my mother, but I’m not positive. I cannot comment on how my household income would compare to the household income I would have had (adjusted for inflation) had my father lived.

I can say that I’m nearly obsessed with wealth transfer. TinyE was barely one month old when her 529 plan was started. The goal is for her to go to college and to finish without the burdens of, or with manageable student loan debt. Often I think we need to start an IRA or a mutual fund for her to take advantage of the exponential growth available to those who start investing early (even $50 per month started at age 6 would be hard to catch up to by investing significantly more starting at age 21). When I articulate my visceral reaction, I don’t want her to experience downward mobility, but when I think about it divorced from larger societal considerations, I hope she will pursue the path she desires and won’t focus on income in the way that I did and do.

Mrs. Duf, who is white, sees the value in planning for our future and for our daughter's future, but she approches that from a place of logic, without my manic posture.

At any rate, something is horribly wrong. My theory: education discrepancies, incarceration discrepancies, bias, and larger pressures against middle and lower middle class families.