It’s no secret that no matter what blows are dealt to the American economy, its citizens of color will feel them with far greater intensity than the rest of the nation.
However, much of the dialogue about the sour economic times and the effects it’s had on black and Latino communities has been relegated to the poor. Such attention is warranted, but that sort of linear coverage might have indirectly given other factions within each group a false sense of security. It may also be clouding the narrative about the root of these financial woes and just how dire they may be for all minorities.
Hopefully, the US 2010 research project and their newly unveiled findings will offer a much-needed dose of perspective to the conversation. According to new analysis of census data, the most successful blacks and Latinos are more likely to have poor neighbors than their wealthier white counterparts.
US 2010 reveals that the average affluent black and Hispanic household — defined as earning more than $75,000 a year — lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average lower-income non-Hispanic white household that makes less than $40,000 a year.
Sociologist John Logan, who helmed the US2010 Project at Brown University was blunt about his findings, telling USA Today, “Blacks are segregated and even affluent blacks are pretty segregated.”
Logan added, “African-Americans who really succeeded live in neighborhoods where people around them have not succeeded to the same extent.”
These disparities are greatest in metro areas in the Northeast and Midwest while lowest are in cities in the South.
Admittedly, these findings won’t exactly send shock waves to most blacks. Many of us have grown accustomed to the notion that more times than not, a large share of well-off blacks live in areas only a few bus stops away from their less successful brethren. For those itching to roast the “stunt and shows” segment of the race, this data will lend some credence to the perception that some upper-middle class and middle class blacks are having to live “down” in order to give airs that they’re still on the financial up and up.
But to bemoan that novelty distracts us from the greater issues at hand.
Logan further lamented: “White middle-class families have the option to live in a community that matches their own credentials. If you’re African-American and want to live with people like you in social class, you have to live in a community where you are in the minority.”
Not every black person feels as if they have to move away from their less successful counterparts once they reach a certain level of success in order to signify it. That said, it’s a shame a large share of blacks aren’t even afforded the option. The end result is being segregated to areas plagued with an unequal allocation of resources — the kind that affects schools, health care, and neighborhood amenities. Factors related to social mobility.
Worse is the realization that this trend won’t be changing anytime soon. None of this is good news for the black middle class, which was already a fairly new and quite shaky concept.
In 1997, “Black Wealth/White Wealth,” sociologists Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro wrote that middle-class blacks “possess only 15 cents for every dollar of wealth held by middle-class whites.” They concluded the black middle class was “precarious and fragile.” Now more than ever following additional reports that the median wealth of white households is nearly 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.
And one of the fundamental aspects to attain middle class status and wealth — home ownership – could soon become a more daunting task. There’s currently a proposal under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 calling for a return to the decades-old practice of requiring a 20 percent down payment or more for a home loan. Guess which groups will be greater hurt by that requirement?
Thus, not only is it harder to achieve social mobility as a minority in this country, but once you do chances are you will continue to be burdened with some of the very pitfalls an increase in wealth and income are supposed to spare you from.
Beyoncé has a better chance of divorcing Jay-Z to marry Barney than blacks do getting this Congress to address any of these matters. Sadly, until our elected officials do truly “moving on up” will be harder for all minorities — upper middle class, middle class, and working poor alike.