The American Dream simply does not exist for the majority of black men.

Researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census bureau have recently published a study that takes a broad look at equality of opportunity in the US. The data set they analyzed is enormous. It tracks 20 million people now in their late thirties, evaluating their childhood circumstances across race, class, family structure, neighborhood, school, etc. They evaluate where these individuals ended up, in terms of income, and several other factors (including whether or not they were incarcerated). The results simply eviscerate any argument that there’s a level playing field and equality of opportunity.

Across a wide range of factors, it’s clear that America generally produces terrible outcomes for black men.

In our most recent study, we analyze racial differences in economic opportunity using data on 20 million children and their parents. We show black children have much lower rates of upward mobility and higher rates of downward mobility than white children, leading to black-white income disparities that persist across generations. While Hispanic and black Americans presently have comparable incomes, the incomes of Hispanic Americans are increasing steadily across generations.

The black-white gap in upward mobility is driven entirely by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Black and white men have very different outcomes even if they grow up in two-parent families with comparable incomes, education, and wealth; live on the same city block; and attend the same school. Black-white gaps are smaller in low-poverty neighborhoods with lower levels of racial bias among whites and a larger fraction of black fathers at home. We conclude that reducing the black-white income gap will require efforts whose impacts cross neighborhood and class lines and increase upward mobility specifically for black men.  —

The study also demonstrates that the American Dream is fading away for most Americans. Barely half of Americans born during the Reagan years ended up with higher incomes than their parents. It most definitely is not “Morning in America”.


But the obstacle course is most severe, and reserves the most devastating outcomes, for black men in particular. The New York Times Upshot team has done a deep-dive, complete with some pretty amazing animated graphics to illustrate the data on race.


White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. […]

The study, based on anonymous earnings and demographic data for virtually all Americans now in their late 30s, debunks a number of other widely held hypotheses about income inequality. Gaps persisted even when black and white boys grew up in families with the same income, similar family structures, similar education levels and even similar levels of accumulated wealth. […]

The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites.

“The problem,” Mr. Chetty said, “is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America. —…

This is an extremely useful work because it provides compelling evidence for what many of us have felt for some time.

It also comes on the same day that Elizabeth Warren, Darrick Hamilton, Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders hosted a compelling town hall on Inequality in America:

— @subirgrewal