Pay Attention to Class

Parental income is our best predictor of children's outcomes. The post Pay Attention, Class appeared first on The American Conservative.

One of the most striking aspects of woke ideology, however, is its insistence on race and human dignity. It largely ignores class, and other material conditions. It believes that all differences between people are due to past or current racism or sexism and considers economic factors peripheral to this discussion.

Discrimination can be a quick fix. This includes sensitivity training programs, rooting in implicit biases, and establishing quotas. Real sacrifices are required to address class inequalities. These include a more progressive tax policy, a wider distribution of property taxes used for public schools, or eliminating legacy admissions at elite private school. Adolph Reed, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist, stated that a society could be one where 1% of the population controls 95% of the resources. This would only be possible if 12 percent of those 1 percent were Black and 14% were Hispanic or half the women.


The “equity” woke creed is characterized by bait-and switch terms such as “equity”, which replaces equality of opportunity with equality in outcome. This ignores decades worth of unambiguous research that shows that America’s greatest obstacle to children is their bad luck being born to poor families.

Are you more likely to be born black or poor? What is worse, growing up in poverty in a poor area or in a wealthy neighborhood? How can social scientists unravel the links between poverty, blackness, and poor schools? There are many simple ways to solve this problem. These methods, called multicollinearity by statisticians, have been refined over decades of intense research and provide surprising clear answers.

Intergenerational social mobility refers to the relationship between incomes of parents and children as they age. It is obvious that there is a direct link between financial success and children. What does it mean to study social mobility and not take into account parental income? This connection is often overlooked because of its obvious nature.

The elephant in the room is parental income. It must be removed before we can analyze other subtle benefits. It is both obvious as well as elusive and hidden in plain sight. Research using the most extensive datasets available has shown that race can effectively mask income, family structure, and neighborhood. Research using some of the largest datasets ever assembled shows that black men are not affected by their skin color but rather because they grew up in poor families and neighborhoods with high numbers of single mothers.

A vast amount of research has established the importance of your parents income. Raj Chetty and his colleagues conducted one of the largest studies on social mobility . They linked Census data with federal tax returns to prove that the best predictor of income for adulthood was your parents’ income as a child. According to the authors, an average 10 percentile rise in income for parents is associated with a 3.4 percentageile increase in income for children.


This is a significant effect. Children will make an average 34 percent more if their parents are in the highest income decile than if they have the lowest. This holds true for all races. Black children who are born in the highest income quintile have twice the chance of becoming wealthy adults than white children who were born in the lowest quintile. The chances of children from any race occupying the top rungs on the economic ladder are lower for the poorest, and higher for the wealthy.

Why is it so important to have wealthy parents? David Grusky of Stanford wrote in a paper about the commodification and value of opportunity that “While parents can’t directly purchase a middle class outcome for their children, they are able to indirectly buy it through access to schools, neighborhoods and information that create merit and increase the probability of a mid-class outcome.”

This simple fact is so obvious that many people fail to see it. Respected news outlets regularly cite statistics on racial differences, without considering class. It’s like comparing children who have larger feet to those with smaller feet in a study that shows they perform better on reading tests. The best predictor for adult income is parental income.

While there is no substitute to being born wealthy, the outcomes of children from the same income families can be predicted to differ. After accounting for household income, the largest disparity in racial earnings is between Asians versus whites. Poor white children earn approximately 11 percent less than their Asian counterparts. Then comes a 2 percent decrease if you’re poor or Hispanic and then an additional 11 percent if your parents are black and poor.

These differences are often due to how income is measured. Particularly, the use of household income hides important differences between homes that have one or two parents. This alone can explain a lot of the remaining differences between racial groups. These exact same earnings gaps are reflected in marriage rates between races. For example, Asian children have a 66% chance of growing up with two parents. Hispanics have 41%, Hispanics 41 percent, and blacks 17 percent. After accounting for income differences between single-parent and dual-parent households, the black-white income gap shrinks to 5%.

As focusing on income of the household can mask differences in marital rates between races, so does grouping girls and boys together. Boys who are born poor will be more likely to stay that way than their siblings. This is particularly true for black boys who earn 9.7 percent less than their white peers. However, black women earn approximately 1 percent more than white women born into the same family with the same income. Chetty writes that the black-white income gap, regardless of parent income, is primarily driven by large disparities in wages and employment rates between white and black men. There are no such differences among black women.

What is the cause of these differences? It could be racism, but it’s a very peculiar kind. It appears to be beneficial for Asians, but it is detrimental for black men. Black women are not affected by it. However, closer inspection of the data reveals that almost all the differences between black men versus men of other races are due to the neighborhoods.

Black men may be affected by an “individual level race effect,” which means that children from black families are more likely to experience disadvantages than their white counterparts. Or, they could be affected by a “place-level racism effect,” in which children of all races suffer more in areas where there is a large black population. The results support a place-level effect. Chetty writes: “The main conclusion of this analysis is, that both whites and blacks who live in areas with large African American populations have lower rates for upward income mobility.”

Numerous studies have supported this finding. Children who grow up in similar neighborhoods and with similar incomes have similar chances of success. This means that poor white and poor black children who are raised in the same Los Angeles neighborhood are equally likely to become poor adults.

The classic case of multicollinearity (i.e., correlated predictiveors ) is to disentangle the effects of income and race on social mobility. Racism effectively hides the true causes of lower social mobility–parental earnings. Family structure and location are the main factors that explain these residual effects. Black men are the most likely to have poor outcomes in America, as they are raised in the poorest neighborhoods and with the highest number of single mothers. Asians have the best outcomes, however, because they have the wealthiest parents and the lowest divorce rates. They also live in the most desirable neighborhoods.

These outcomes are driven by community characteristics that affect all races. This challenges the notion that structural racism or anti-black bias underlies all racial disparities . It suggests that the root causes of racial inequality lie higher up in the causal chain, in the structure and culture of families and neighborhoods. Why do we use race to delineate the causes of racial differences when we could simply use the causes? Take, for example, the fact that whites commit suicidal acts three times more often than Hispanics. Is this a sign that white people are more likely to commit suicide?

In 1965, the Moynihan Report highlighted the impact of family structure on success. It concluded that the main reason for racial disparities in achievement was due to the collapse of the nuclear family. American sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the assistant secretary for Labor. He argued that the high rate of out-of-wedlock births and the large number black children born to single mothers led to a matriarchal society which undermined the male role. He wrote that “In a nutshell, a national effort toward the problems of Negro Americans should be directed to the question of family structures.” It should be possible to support the Negro family in a way that allows it to support and raise its children as other families.

However, closer examination of these data shows that the disadvantage is not due to being raised by a single mother but rather because they grew up in areas without many active fathers. In a near perfect replication of Moynihan’s findings, Chetty wrote that “black father presence in the neighborhood strongly predicts black boy’s outcomes regardless of whether or not their own father is present. This suggests that it’s not about your parents being married. Children who are raised in two-parent homes in these neighborhoods have similar rates of social mobility.

Although it might seem outdated to view social dysfunction as the result of diminished authority in men, evidence to support Moynihan’s thesis is mounting. This controversial report was criticized by many as being racist. The collapse of the family can be seen with similar results in poor white rural families .

For all races there is a drop in chances of living with both parents. It drops from 85 percent for those born to upper-middle class families to 30 percent for those who are lower-middle class. These studies show that fathers are an important social resource, and that boys can be sensitive to their absence. While it seems that children are protected from many of these effects by growing up in a wealthy household, the negative effects of poverty and absent fathers can compound.

These studies provide a snapshot of the material circumstances of tens to millions of Americans. We don’t choose our parents, race or where we were born. All of us are born into circumstances beyond our control. Americans are born into a system that imposes privilege and hardship on us all. This research shows that race does not determine economic mobility at an individual level. It is simply a poor substitute for the root causes. Privilege exists. Privilege is not based on race, but class.

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