The Persistent Racial Income Gap Hinders Black Access to Higher Education

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its annual report on income in the United States. According to data in the report, the median income of Black households in the United States in 2017 was $40,258. This is up from $39,490 in 2016. The median income figure shows the point where half of all families earn below this level and half earn above this level.

For non-Hispanic White households in 2017, the median income figure was $68,145, up from $65,041 in 2016. So while income levels increased for both Black and White households, the increase was more for Whites than for Blacks. Thus, the racial income gap widened. The median income level for Black households in 2016 was 60.7 percent of the median income for non-Hispanic White households. In 2017, the median Black family income was 59.1 percent of the median income for White families. With only minor fluctuations, the racial gap in median income has remained virtually unchanged for nearly a half century.

It is also important to look at the racial gap in income at the highest levels. These families are ones that can afford to send their children to the college of their choice without having to worry about financial aid or student loans. Some 8.9 percent of non-Hispanic White households in 2017 had incomes above $200,000. For Black households, 3.1 percent had incomes of more than $200,000. Thus, Whites are nearly three times as likely as Blacks to come from high-income households.


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  1. Brian Walter says:

    Please include the Asian demographic data as well. They are higher and rapid growth. Perhaps a better bar than whites. Also data would be more telling if families were adjusted for parents’ education level, and perhaps too difficult, what occupation the bread winner(s) are employed in. The skilled usually make more than the unskilled and semiskilled. That would provide a clearer understanding.
    Note 3 factors that obscure strictly racial conclusions; 1) older workers have greater incomes than younger workers with those older workers incomes are increasing where younger folks are shrinking slightly, 2) married couples do considerably better than non marrieds, especially single mothers, and 3) that the income growth occurred outside principle cities and metropolitan areas.

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