According to the findings of a recent study called The Equality of Opportunity Project, black boys (even those with wealthy families from the best neighborhoods) earn less as adults than their white counterparts.
The study was led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau on the state of income inequality between blacks and whites in the U.S. They traced the lives of millions of American children now in their late 30s and found that young white men raised in wealthy households are more likely to stay wealthy than their black counterparts, who are more likely to be poor in adulthood — regardless of their economic beginnings.
The study states:
Differences in family characteristics – parental marriage rates, education, wealth – and differences in ability explain very little of the black-white gap.
Ibram Kendi, professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, told the New York Times:
One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea.
The study brought long-awaited validation for some:
A lot of interesting prisms for interpreting this data. Among them, I can't help but notice that if you overlay the generational income graphs on one another, you end up with white men at a supreme wealth retention advantage--- and then everyone else. https://t.co/fsCmkZoByy pic.twitter.com/jGX021CDV3— Jamiles Lartey (@JamilesLartey) March 19, 2018
“This crystallizes and puts data behind this thing that we always knew was there because we either felt it ourselves or we’ve seen it over time,” said @willjawando, a former Obama staffer whose own life was one of the 20 million that this study examined. https://t.co/Dfe2lkTxJx— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 19, 2018
Slipping into poverty and ending up worse off than our parents is something I discuss a lot with my black friends. This research shows that those fears are not unfounded. Even though we were raised well-to-do, we're still swimming upstream: https://t.co/UuoximXMnO— Wilbert L. Cooper (@WilbertLCooper) March 19, 2018
The study, based on anonymous earning and demographic data from the U.S. Census, shows that gaps in income equality persist even when comparing white and black boys who grow up with similar familial backgrounds, income, education, and accumulated wealth. But the same does not hold true for white and black girls, who, when they start with comparable earnings backgrounds, appear to "... attain similar individual incomes as adults." This means these disparities cannot be explained by differences in cognitive ability between the two.
As Stanford sociologist David Grusky told the Times:
...you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women.
It's clear that black boys fare far worse in this country than white boys and black females:
This is the racism we are afraid of: playing an unwinnable game, where lives are at stake.— Kanyi Maqubela (@km) March 19, 2018
In fact, it seems the study may point to the ways in which black men are viewed and hindered in our culture, regardless of class or economic footing. If individual or household traits cannot explain the disparities in income inequality, and if potential for cognitive differences is removed from the equation, what we're left with are those opportunities (or lack thereof) that lie outside of our homes, and a society that appears to view and treat black boys differently from white boys — and even differently from black girls.