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Robert Manduca

Research Findings

How rising income inequality exacerbates racial economic disparities

August 7, 2018

Fifty years after the civil rights movement, racial economic inequality remains a major fact of American life. In fact, the gap in family income between blacks and whites has been almost perfectly constant since the 1960s.

In a recent study, I show that the persistence of the racial income gap results from two opposing trends. Over the last 50 years there has been real if incomplete progress towards racial equality in income ranks negated by the national trend of rising income inequality overall.

In 1968, just after the Civil Rights Movement, the median African American had family income 57% that of the median white American. In 2016, the ratio was 56%. The utter lack of progress is striking.

It’s also a bit puzzling, because real efforts were made to reduce discrimination in employment and equalize access to education and other resources needed to succeed in the United States.

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