Poverty Across Generations Is Largely Gone for White Americans

Poverty passed on over three generations affects just 1 in 100 White Americans, compared with 1 in 5 Blacks Americans.

That’s the finding of a paper from a team of researchers who examined racial disparities in income mobility and concluded there’s a “stark racial gap” in the persistence of poverty across multiple generations in the U.S.

Poverty Across Generations Is Largely Gone for White Americans

By the third generation, Black Americans are 41% more likely to be in poverty than Whites Americans.

The paper highlights both the difficulties for Black Americans to escape poverty and the greater risks for them to fall into it. Half of Black Americans in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have parents and grandparents who were also poor, compared with 8% for White Americans.

“For White Americans, inheriting poverty across multiple generations is rare,” according to the report. “For Black Americans, it is common.”

The paper, called “Long Shadows: The Black-White Gap in Multigenerational Poverty,” was co-authored by five researchers from the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution.

Moving up the income ladder is slower for Black Americans at every level, the study shows.

Getting from the bottom quintile -- median income of about $19,000 for the grandparents -- to the top fifth -- median income of about $222,000 for adults today-- in just three generations remains relatively rare for both races. But it’s still almost twice as likely for White Americans than Black Americans.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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