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On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. | June 27, 2016

The full article on the Pew Research Center website is here…


Excerpt from the article…


Almost eight years after Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president — an event that engendered a sense of optimism among many Americans about the future of race relations — a series of flashpoints around the U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race…

An overwhelming majority of blacks (88%) say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, but 43% are skeptical that such changes will ever occur….

A much lower share of whites (53%) say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites, and only 11% express doubt that these changes will come….

These findings are based on a national survey by Pew Research Center conducted Feb. 29-May 8, 2016, among 3,769 adults (including 1,799 whites, 1,004 blacks and 654 Hispanics).2…

The survey finds that black and white adults have widely different perceptions about what life is like for blacks in the U.S. For example, by large margins, blacks are more likely than whites to say black people are treated less fairly in the workplace (a difference of 42 percentage points), when applying for a loan or mortgage (41 points), in dealing with the police (34 points), in the courts (32 points), in stores or restaurants (28 points), and when voting in elections (23 points). By a margin of at least 20 percentage points, blacks are also more likely than whites to say racial discrimination (70% vs. 36%), lower quality schools (75% vs. 53%) and lack of jobs (66% vs. 45%) are major reasons that blacks may have a harder time getting ahead than whites.

More broadly, blacks and whites offer different perspectives of the current state of race relations in the U.S. White Americans are evenly divided, with 46% saying race relations are generally good and 45% saying they are generally bad. In contrast, by a nearly two-to-one margin, blacks are more likely to say race relations are bad (61%) rather than good (34%). Blacks are also about twice as likely as whites to say too little attention is paid to race and racial issues in the U.S. these days (58% vs. 27%). About four-in-ten whites (41%) – compared with 22% of blacks – say there is too much focus on race and racial issues…..

The economic realities of black and white households

Trends in key economic and demographic indicators provide some context for the experiences and outlook of blacks today. While there has been clear progress in closing the white-black gap in some areas – particularly when it comes to high school completion rates – decades-old black-white gaps in economic well-being persist and have even widened in some cases.

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 the median adjusted income for households headed by blacks was $43,300, and for whites it was $71,300. (link is external)3 Blacks also lag behind whites in college completion, but even among adults with a bachelor’s degree, blacks earned significantly less in 2014 than whites ($82,300 for households headed by a college-educated black compared with $106,600 for comparable white households).(link is external)

The racial gap extends to household wealth – a measure where the gap has widened since the Great Recession. In 2013, the most recent year available, the median net worth of households headed by whites was roughly 13 times that of black households ($144,200 for whites compared with $11,200 for blacks).

For most Americans, household wealth is closely tied to home equity, and there are sharp and persistent gaps in homeownership between blacks and whites. In 2015, 72% of white household heads owned a home, compared with 43% of black household heads….

When asked about the underlying reasons that blacks may be having a harder time getting ahead than whites, large majorities of black adults point to societal factors. Two-thirds or more blacks say failing schools (75%), racial discrimination (70%) and a lack of jobs (66%) are major reasons that black people may have a harder time getting ahead these days.

On each of these items, the views of blacks differ significantly from those of whites. But, by far, the biggest gap comes on racial discrimination, where only 36% of whites say this is a major reason that blacks may be struggling to get ahead, 34 percentage points lower than the share of blacks who say the same….

Personal experiences with discrimination

A majority of blacks (71%) say that they have experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity….Only 5% of whites say their race or ethnicity has made it harder for them to succeed in life. A majority of whites (62%) say their race hasn’t made much of difference in their ability to succeed, and 31% say their race has made things easier for them….

Roughly one-in-five blacks (21%) say they have been treated unfairly by an employer in the past year because of their race or ethnicity, and a similar share (18%) report having been unfairly stopped by the police during this period….

Most blacks (65%) express support for the Black Lives Matter movement: 41% strongly support it, and 24% say they support it somewhat. (link is external)Some 12% of blacks say they oppose Black Lives Matter (including 4% who strongly oppose it).  …
For their part, whites have mixed views of the Black Lives Matter movement. Four-in-ten (40%) whites say they support the movement (14% strongly support and 26% somewhat support). …

Black men are far more likely than white men to say their gender has made it harder for them to get ahead in life (20% vs. 5%, respectively). Among women, similar shares of blacks (28%) and whites (27%) say their gender has set them back.

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