Pew Research Center (2016)
- Median household income for blacks was 55% that of whites in 1967; the number rose to only 60% by 2014.
Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White (2005)
- When Social Security was signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, the available benefits were contingent upon “prior wages, which, for blacks, often had been derisory” (42). In addition, farmworkers and domestic workers—i.e., the sorts of jobs African Americans were more likely to hold—were excluded from the program altogether. “Across the nation, fully 65 percent of African Americans fell outside the reach of the new program; between 80 and 90 percent in different parts of the South” (43).
- These exclusions were remedied by legislation passed in 1954, but “even then, African Americans were not able to catch up since the program required at least five years of contributions before benefits could be received” (43). Consequently, “for the first quarter century of its existence, Social Security was characterized by a form of policy apartheid” (43).
- New Deal legislation under Roosevelt was also racially disproportionate in the protections offered to laborers. The new laws were designed in part to improve the “health, efficiency, and well-being of workers,” in part through the establishment, for instance, of a minimum wage and a 40-hour work week (55). However, once again, predominantly black farmworkers and domestics were excluded from these protections. The decision to exclude farmworkers and domestics appears to have been motivated by explicitly racist concerns. One southern lawmaker noted, for instance, that an equal minimum wage for whites and blacks “might work in some sections of the United States, but those of us who know the true situation know that it just will not work in the South. You cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it” (60).
Andrea Flynn, et. al, The Hidden Rules of Race (2017):
- Another particularly relevant past practice with still-lingering consequences was the practice of “redlining.” One part of Roosevelt’s New Deal involved the creation of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in 1934. Once formed, the FHA developed policies according to which home loans could be offered to possible home buyers. They favored offering loans for homes in predominantly segregated, homogenous, and white parts of town surrounded by a “green line” on FHA maps and avoided offering loans for houses in those homes in predominantly black or desegregated parts of towns surrounded by a “red line,” insofar as homes within the red line were of lower quality and value, as well as less likely to accrue in value. “[B]ecause of the way the administrative rules were set up, the growth in housing was channeled into [predominantly white] suburbs at the expense of central cities” (69).
- Studies have demonstrated that light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks are treated differently on the job market. If we control for “level of schooling, high school performance, work experience, health status, self-esteem, age, marital status, number of dependents, workplace characteristics, and parental socioeconomic status and neighborhood characteristics at age sixteen, [scholars] found lighter-complexioned black males experienced treatment in U.S. labor markets little different from white males. On the other hand, using the same controls, black males with medium and dark skin tones incurred significant discriminatory penalties relative to white males” (Flynn et. al 2017, 42). Consequently, “[g]reater proximity to white-identified norms of appearance and attractiveness carries benefits” (42).
- Although some Americans would prefer to attribute the wealth gap to minorities’ laziness or their “victim mentality,” it is clear that the racial gap persists even among people who hold the same educational level. “At every level of education, earnings for black men and women lag behind those of their similarly skilled white counterparts” (78). That is to say, median income for hard-working blacks with college degrees, master’s degrees, or further, advanced degrees (such as doctorates) is lower than the median income for hard-working whites who’ve accomplished the same level of education and hold the same skills (79).
- Segregation in the workplace appears to economically benefit whites. One study revealed “a $10,000 increase in the average annual wage of an occupation is associated with a seven percentage-decrease in the proportion of black men in the occupation” (86). That is to say, when there are fewer black men in an occupation more money is made for the remaining members of the occupation. Crucially, once again, this holds independently of education and skill level, and thus cannot be attributed to laziness or “victim mentality.” “The relationship between wages and racial make-up of an occupation is true across all skill levels, which tells us that wage disparities cannot be explained away by education or training differentials” (86).
- Studies show that employers sometimes evaluate applicants on the basis of shifting criteria, depending on the race of the applicant. “[E]mployers willingly overlook missing qualifications in white job applicants and weigh qualifications differently depending on the applicants’ race” (87). In particular, one study showed that “deficiencies of skill or experience appear to be more disqualifying for minority job seekers” (87).
- One study showed that white men with a felony record were more likely to be called back for job interviews than black men without a criminal record but holding the same skills; that is to say, it appears that we have statistical evidence that felony records are more likely to be overlooked if one is white, so much so that whites with felonies are apparently seen as more qualified than blacks without, despite all other qualifications being equal (87).
- Another study showed that, in large and racially diverse cities like Boston or Chicago, applicants who submitted resumes with white sounding names (like Emily or Greg) were 50 percent more likely to be called for an interview than applicants with identical resumes but with black sounding names (like Lakisha or Jamal; Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004, 998). How about when the resumes are different? For instance, what are the effects when the study was done with resumes that showed a greater or lesser number of skills or years of work experience? “In summary, employers simply seem to pay less attention or discount more the characteristics listed on the resumes with African-American sounding names. Taken at face value, these results suggest that African-Americans may face relatively lower individual incentives to invest in higher skills” (cited in Flynn et. al).
- The darkness of African-Americans’ skin also correlates with “greater odds of harsher sentences if convicted of comparable crimes, including greater odds of receiving the death penalty for similar capital crimes” (42).
- Cocaine is disproportionately more likely to be used by whites, while crack cocaine is more likely to be used by blacks, but although they are “virtually identical” (cocaine offers longer highs while crack offers more intense but shorter highs), “sentences for using crack cocaine [were] one hundred times longer than for powder cocaine” (119). In 2010, federal laws were passed that reduced the discrepancy “from 100:1 to 18:1” (119). These sentencing laws therefore produce a rather significant disproportionate impact on blacks.
- In addition, “[r]esearch has shown that more than 80 percent of defendants sentenced for crack offenses are African American, despite the fact that more than 66 percent of users are white or Hispanic” (119). That is to say, while blacks make up 44 percent or less of crack users, they are 80 percent of those sentenced for its use. This statistic is likely to be conditioned by a number of possible causes, such as implicit bias or racial profiling on the part of the officers investigating and arresting black users, or the fact that whites or Hispanics (more likely whites) have access to wealth that permits them to hire those more expensive lawyers more capable of preventing conviction or reducing sentencing for those who are convicted. Whatever the reason, the application of crack cocaine sentencing laws disproportionately impact African-Americans.
- Apart from crack, in general studies show that “African Americans comprise only 15 percent of the country’s drug users, yet they make up 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, 59 percent of those who are convicted, and 74 percent of those sentence to prison for a drug offense” (119). That is to say, they make up a minority of drug users but a majority of those convicted and sentenced for drug offenses. Another considerable disproportionate impact of an apparently colorblind set of laws.
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (2012)
- Studies show rates of marijuana use are relatively uniform across race, but studies also show that “white students use cocaine at seven times the rate of black students, use crack cocaine at eight times the rate of black students, and use heroin at seven times the rate of black students” (99). In addition, “white youth have about three times the number of drug-related emergency room visits as their African American counterparts” (99). However, despite the fact that we’ve little empirical evidence that blacks use drugs at rates higher than whites, “in seven states, African Americans constitute 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison” (98). In addition, “[i]n at least fifteen states, blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate from twenty to fifty-seven times greater than that of white men” (98).
- As a result of the fact that warriors in the so-called “war on drugs” tended to target black neighborhoods, “1 in every 14 black men was behind bars in 2006, compared with 1 in 106 white men. For young black men, the statistics are even worse. One in 9 black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five was behind bars in 2006” (100). Again, however, based on the statistics cited above, “[t]hese gross racial disparities simply cannot be explained by rates of illegal drug use activity among African Americans” (100). Nor can these disparities be explained by incarceration due to violent crimes, as “[t]oday violent crime rates are at historically low levels, yet incarceration rates continue to climb” (101).
- Racial profiling in policing has consistently been found to be acceptable by the Supreme Court and, as a result, racial profiling persists across the US, despite studies that have demonstrated, for instance, “in New Jersey, whites were almost twice as likely to be found with illegal drugs or contraband as African Americans, and five times as likely to be found with contraband as Latinos” (133). However, because of racial profiling, “in New Jersey, the data showed that only 15 percent of all drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike were racial minorities, yet 42 percent of all stops and 73 percent of all arrests were of black motorists—despite the fact that blacks and whites violated traffic laws at almost exactly the same rate” (133).
- “Maryland studies produced similar results: African Americans comprised only 17 percent of drivers along a stretch of I-95 outside of Baltimore, yet they were 70 percent of those who were stopped and searched. Only 21 percent of all drivers along that stretch of highway were racial minorities (Latinos, Asians, and African Americans), yet those groups comprised nearly 80 percent of those pulled over and searched” (133).
- “In Volusia County, Florida, … [o]nly 5 percent of the drivers on the road were African Americans or Latinos, but more than 80 percent of the people stopped and searched were minorities” (134).
- “In Illinois, … [w]hile Latinos comprised less than 8 percent of the Illinois population and took fewer than 3 percent of the personal vehicle trips in Illinois, they comprised approximately 30 percent of the motorists stopped by drug interdiction officers. … Latinos, however, were significantly less likely than whites to have illegal contraband in their vehicles” (134).
- “A racial profiling study in Oakland, California, in 2001 showed that African Americans were approximately twice as likely as whites to be stopped, and three times as likely to be searched” (134).
- According to a study “commissioned by the attorney general of New York, … African Americans were stopped six times more frequently than whites, and … stops of African Americans were less likely to result in arrests than stops of whites—presumably because blacks were less likely to be found with drugs or other contraband” (135).