The inheritance of black poverty: It’s all about the men
Black Americans born poor are much less likely to move up the income ladder than those in other racial groups, especially whites. Why? Many factors are at work, including educational inequalities, neighborhood effects, workplace discrimination, parenting, access to credit, rates of incarceration, and so on.
The middle class is becoming race-plural, just like the rest of America
For more than half a century, the term “the American middle-class,” has served as a political reference to white American upward mobility. This was less an artifact of particular calculations than one of historical experiences and demographic realities.
Why are young, educated men working less?
he proportion of U.S. adults in paid work has declined in recent decades. While the fall in male employment gets the most attention, female work rates are declining too. A new NBER paper from Katharine Abraham and Melissa Kearney provides a comprehensive review and rigorous analysis of the overall trends, and potential contributory factors including trade, technology, weak demand, and an aging population to name a few.
New college endowment tax won’t help low-income students, here’s how it could
There is not very much to like about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. It delivers big benefits to the affluent, creates new loopholes and complexities, and will send the deficit soaring. One provision with some merit, however, is the introduction of a tax on the endowments of wealthy colleges.
Hope in heterogeneity: Big data, opportunity and policy
Big data” is particularly useful for demonstrating variation across large groups. Using administrative tax data, for example, Stanford economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues have shown big differences in upward mobility rates by geography, by the economic background of students at different colleges, by the earnings of students taught by different teachers, and so on.
Enough about men: 3 reasons to boost women’s work
The retreat from work among men is a topic of great concern for scholars and policymakers. And for good reason: over the past 50 years, the prime-age male employment rate declined by 10 percentage points. While men’s employment rates have dropped in many countries, a drop on this scale is unique to the U.S.
Raj Chetty in 14 charts: Big findings on opportunity and mobility we should all know
Few scholars make as big an impact on their field as Professor Raj Chetty. As leader of the Equality of Opportunity Project, and with access to (anonymised) tax records, Chetty and his co-authors have transformed our understanding of social mobility in the U.S.
Graduate students are the wrong target for tax hikes—wait until they’re wealthy
Increasing the educational credentials of poorer Americans is one of the surest ways to boost social mobility. This is one reason the government subsidizes higher education in various ways. One subsidy recently in the spotlight is a provision under Section 117(d) of the tax code which allows colleges and universities to offer tax-free tuition waivers to graduate students.
When delay is deadly
Given the turbulent political climate, you can be forgiven for missing the fact that two and a half months ago, Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize federal support for home visiting. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV, pronounced McVee) is, as we wrote two years ago, “one of the most innovative government programs you’ve probably never heard of.”
Black women are earning more college degrees, but that alone won’t close race gaps
There are wide, stubborn economic gaps between black and white households in the U.S. Why? Many factors are at work, of course, including lower rates of upward mobility, discrimination in the labor market, big differences in rates of incarceration, disparities in access to quality education, historic exclusion from home ownership, and so on.
Inventions and inequality: Class gaps in patenting
Here are two things Americans love: inventiveness and upward mobility.The idea that becoming an inventor can offer a way to climb the income ladder is therefore an intoxicating one. More entrepreneurialism and more equality: who could be against that?
How school district boundaries can create more segregated schools
To a very large extent, school segregation is a mechanical result of residential segregation. America’s public schools, by and large, look like America’s neighborhoods. That’s the broad conclusion of our new report “Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance.” Explore the accompanying interactive to see the racial mix of every school and neighborhood in the U.S.
60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, how racially balanced are America’s public schools?
It’s been more than 60 years since the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, ruled “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. In that time, school populations have diversified, thanks in large part to an increase in the numbers of Hispanic and Asian students attending U.S. schools.
Keeping our PROMESA: What the U.S. can do about Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis
Puerto Rico narrowly escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma this week, but another storm is brewing on the island, and this one will not blow over any time soon. The hurricane comes in the midst of a political battle resulting from a deep fiscal crisis, which is in turn a symptom of long-run structural economic weakness.
College friends keep getting married? It’s bad news for your travel budget… and inequality
An important milestone has just been passed: more women than men are now better educated than their spouse. This is not surprising, given the way that women have caught up with, and now overtaken, men in terms of education.
Are affluent Americans willing to pay a little for a fairer society? A test case in Chicago
There are many reasons to be concerned about the wide and growing inequalities in U.S. society, not least between the upper middle class and the rest. There are fewer clear solutions. In Richard’s book Dream Hoarders, he argues that those at the top – the “favored fifth” – can and should take some personal responsibility for their role in perpetuating the advantages that deepen inequality. These individual sacrifices, he argues, could help create a fairer society.
White, still: The American upper middle class
The American upper middle class is separating along educational, economic, cultural and geographical lines. At least, that’s my contention in Dream Hoarders. (For some voices of disagreement, look here or here…) My focus in the book is on class, rather than race, but of course the two are deeply intertwined. Many of the unfair “opportunity hoarding” mechanisms used by the upper middle class have racist origins – exclusionary zoning, legacy preferences, for instance – and now serve to entrench class positions, as well as racial gaps.
Colleges as class reproduction machines
Education is supposed to be “the great equalizer”, in Horace Mann’s famous phrase. But too often, the education system ends up perpetuating inequality, especially across generations. The higher education sector is an particularly acute case in point, as a new book from Harry Holzer and Sandy Baum, Making College Work: Pathways to Success for Disadvantaged Students, vividly demonstrates.
Hurricanes hit the poor the hardest
Hurricane Harvey displaced more than 30,000 people, was responsible for at least 70 deaths, and is expected to cost between $70 and $108 billion. The economic damages from Hurricane Irma might be even higher.
Glass floors and slow growth: A recipe for deepening inequality and hampering social mobility
Generations of British and American children have benefited from their parents’ hard work, which has contributed to many decades of strong economic growth. This has helped to ensure that, on average, children in their adult lives are economically better-off than their parents were at the same age.
A better way to cut government spending: End tax breaks on 529 college savings plans
Public money is tight. Policymakers at federal and state levels are looking for savings. Some, at least, are anxious not to hurt poor and middle-income families. How do they balance the budget without worsening inequality?
Really, it’s not just the 1 percent
Income inequality has increased in recent decades: nobody disputes that. But there is plenty of argument over the main story. Is it the separation of the very rich in the top 1 percent of the distribution (the “we are the 99 percent” story), or is the fracture that counts lower down, with the top 20 percent pulling away from the rest?
The century gap: Low economic mobility for black men, 150 years after the Civil War
The legacy of American racism is dominating the headlines again. One of the arguments used against the removal or relocation of Confederate symbols is that “it is simply part of our history”. This is not the case. The results of the enslavement, disenfranchisement and exclusion of black Americans remain visible and vivid in 21st century America.
Trump gets something right: Apprenticeships and social mobility
n policy wonk circles, there is a something of a knee-jerk reaction to a Trump proposal. The President proposed it, ergo it is a bad idea. As a general principle this heuristic has some value: there are almost laughably bad policies flowing out of the White House. But be careful: there are some good ones, too. Take President Trump’s recent executive order to expand “industry-recognized” apprenticeships in the United States.
Ladders, labs, or laggards? Which public universities contribute most
Why are taxpayers asked to subsidize postsecondary education? After all, college graduates continue to earn much more on average than those who do not gain a postsecondary degree. One answer is that higher education provides public benefits in addition to high private returns on postsecondary investments.
A tax break for ‘Dream Hoarders’: What to do about 529 college savings plans
Parents, students, and policymakers are increasingly worried about the cost of college. Much of this anxiety is overplayed in the media. A college education remains, for most, a sound investment. Debt levels remain at manageable levels, especially for those with the highest amounts, since they also earn the most.
Paid family and medical leave: An issue whose time has come
The U.S. is the only developed nation without a national paid family leave policy. Though a handful of states have created their own policies—including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and the District of Columbia—the plans have a lack of public awareness and low take-up rates. And while some private employers offer paid family leave policies, employer-provided paid leave is concentrated among high-income workers; a majority of those below media income received no pay while on leave.
Social skills matter, but how do we measure and grow them in the classroom?
Most researchers and parents agree that effective social and emotional skills are essential to a child’s development and success as an adult. But how much do we know about these skills, how to measure them, and what impact they have?
Knowledge is power when it comes to judging college performance
Is college worth it? That’s a question that haunts not only many of the young adults considering their next educational step, but many policymakers, too. The value of a college education by number of years completed is, on average, high and rising. But those averages disguise a huge amount of variation, by institution type, degree major, and many other factors.
How to lift the U.S. mobility rate from 50% to 68% in three simple steps
Most of us hope, perhaps even assume, that our children will have a better standard of living than we do. So the “Chetty-bomb” finding from December that only 50% of Americans born in the early 1980s are better off than their parents got plenty of attention.
The liberal case for character
As John Stuart Mill understood well, the character of citizens matters, too. If you are a conservative, you will most likely nod your head in agreement. Today, it tends to be those on the conservative side of politics who emphasize character, especially in terms of individual responsibility, civic and community engagement, and self-restraint. But Mill was a liberal; and our argument here is that character matters just as much to liberals as to conservatives—perhaps even more so.
Cohabiting parents differ from married ones in three big ways
Here are two important, largely uncontested facts: Family stability is important for childhood outcomes. All else equal, children raised in stable families are healthier, better educated, and more likely to avoid poverty than those who experience transitions in family structure. Married parents are more likely to stay together than cohabiting ones. In fact, two-thirds of cohabiting parents split up before their child reaches age 12, compared with one-quarter of married parents.
Convenience plus a conscience: Lessons for school integration
The controversial appointment of Betsy DeVos, an advocate for expanding school vouchers, reanimated long-standing arguments over school assignment, funding, and segregation. There is a great deal of political heat here: racial divisions in U.S. schooling echo and amplify the nation’s racist history. Education is a vital ingredient for success in adulthood.
Are Chinese factories really killing marriage in America?
Free trade brings costs as well as benefits. This is an uncomfortable fact, but one that policymakers are having to take more seriously following the 2016 election and the triumph of trade-sceptic Donald Trump. The broad elite consensus in favor of removing trade barriers is under attack around the globe, prompting fears of a new era of protectionism.
The contribution of historically black colleges and universities to upward mobility
lack students have been (slowly) closing the gap on whites in terms of in high school test scores and graduation rates. But the divide at the college level remains wide. In 2007, the gap in postsecondary attainment (at least an associate degree) between blacks and whites was 13.3 percent (41.0 percent vs. 27.7 percent). The gap remained in the double digits, at 13.6 percent (46.9 percent vs. 33.3 percent), in 2015.
On the new Chetty-bomb that only half of Americans are better off than their parents
Another Chetty-bomb just exploded in the mobility debate. Writing with David Grusky, Maximilian Hell, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert Manduca, and Jimmy Narang, Professor Raj Chetty has just produced a stunning research finding: only half of Americans born in 1980 are economically better off than their parents. This compares to 90 percent of those born in 1940.
Race gaps in SAT math scores are as big as ever
Education has long been cast as the “great equalizer” of American society. Post-secondary colleges, and in particular public universities, are especially prized as engines of upward mobility. As recent research by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, and Danny Yagan shows, some institutions are more effective in this regard than others.
Race gaps in SAT scores highlight inequality and hinder upward mobility
Taking the SAT is an American rite of passage. Along with the increasingly popular ACT, the SAT is critical in identifying student readiness for college and as an important gateway to higher education. Yet despite efforts to equalize academic opportunity, large racial gaps in SAT scores persist.
Social skills matter, but how do we measure and grow them in the classroom?
Most researchers and parents agree that effective social and emotional skills are essential to a child’s development and success as an adult. But how much do we know about these skills, how to measure them, and what impact they have?
Health, housing, and racial justice: An agenda for the Trump administration
The next administration will have a very long list of challenges. Racial justice ought to be at the top of the agenda. The average black American will be just as far behind whites in 2017 as they were in 2000 in terms of income, wealth, unemployment, earnings, most health disparities, and the risk of incarceration. In the last couple of decades, progress towards equity for African Americans has effectively come to a halt.
Careful! Metrics matter a great deal when estimating racial segregation in schools
The racial segregation of American schools has historically been a vivid symptom of racist attitudes, institutions, and laws. Segregation remains a highly salient issue, especially given the wide, stubborn gaps in educational outcomes by race.
Segregation, race, and charter schools: What do we know?
In “Segregation, race, and charter schools: What do we know?” Brookings Senior Fellows Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst and Richard Reeves, along with Senior Research Assistant Edward Rodrigue, find that poverty—not race—is the real challenge for segregated schools, and that improving school quality is key to closing racial achievement gaps.
Time for justice: Tackling race inequalities in health and housing
The first decades of the 21st century have, like the many that came before, been difficult for black America, despite the election and re-election of our first black President. There has been progress on some fronts, including narrower gaps in high school graduation rates, declining rates of teen pregnancy, and fewer suicides among black men.
First, create an Office of Opportunity
It is hardly breaking news that rates of inter-generational mobility in the U.S. are low. It is especially troubling given our self-identification as a land of opportunity, full of people scrambling up the economic ladder. There is bipartisan agreement about the problem.
As many states look to expand pre-K programs, a study gives reason for pause
How well does pre-Kindergarten prepare children for elementary school and beyond? Many past studies—some of them high quality, randomized evaluations—have found positive effects on cognitive and behavioral outcomes, especially for low-income children, although those effects have frequently been found to fade.
Modeling equal opportunity
The Horatio Alger ideal of upward mobility has a strong grip on the American imagination (Reeves 2014). But recent years have seen growing concern about the distance between the rhetoric of opportunity and the reality of inter-generational mobility trends and patterns.
The intersection of race, place, and multidimensional poverty
The highest rates of multidimensional poverty are found in Southern and Western metro areas like Memphis, Birmingham, and Miami, where more than 1 in 5 low-income adults live with multiple disadvantages. The McAllen region exhibits the highest rate of multidimensional poverty overall (41 percent), followed by metropolitan Fresno, where one-third of adults are at least doubly disadvantaged.
Asian-American success and the pitfalls of generalization
"There is but one race—humanity.” So says Millicent, paramour of the Irish protagonist in George Moore’s 1900 play, “The Bending of the Bough. But Millicent does not run the U.S. Census Bureau. Data on a myriad of economic and social factors can be analyzed by self-defined racial or ethnic category. The huge inequalities between people in different racial categories are one of the most pressing challenges for public policy in the 21st century.
How will we know? The case for opportunity indicators
While the U.S. is a world leader in opportunity rhetoric, it is something of a laggard for opportunity metrics. Indicators are necessary to guide policy, drive data collection strategies, and measure progress. We need clear concepts and credible indicators of opportunity to have an idea of whether we have “restored” it or if we are even headed in the right direction.
Comeback kids: School suspension and high school graduation
People on track to success tend, obviously enough, to succeed. They complete their education, develop essential life skills, stay out of trouble, and plan for their futures. But not everybody succeeds at every stage. How can those who go ‘off-track’ get back on? What distinguishes them from those who go off-track and struggle to get back on?