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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Black boys, but not girls, earn less than whites

“Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys,” concludes a new study by Stanford, Harvard and Census Bureau researchers. However, there is no earnings gap for black girls.

“Gaps persisted even when black and white boys grew up in families with the same income, similar family structures, similar education levels and even similar levels of accumulated wealth,” reports the New York Times in a story with very fancy graphics.

Researchers found only a few neighborhoods where the gaps were small for black and white males. Most had low poverty rates; surveys showed less racial bias. These pockets “were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home,” reports the Times. “Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.”

Sixty-three percent of white children live in low-poverty neighborhoods with many fathers present, compared to only 4 percent of black children, the study found.

Only 1 percent of white children — but 66 percent of blacks — live in high-poverty neighborhoods with few fathers present

“That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.”

“Other studies show that boys, across races, are more sensitive than girls to disadvantages like growing up in poverty or facing discrimination,” reports the Times. Black males “hyper-stereotyped” as “scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” said Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.

The Latino-white earnings gap is narrower and is closing over time, the study found. Asian-Americans earn about the same as whites raised in similar families; first-generation immigrants earn more.

Ian Rowe, founder of the Boys Prep and Girls Prep charter schools, has been crusading against fatherless families and trying to persuade his low-income, minority New York City students to avoid teen pregnancy.

. . .  what happens when poverty is intertwined with widespread fatherlessness and family disintegration? Perhaps it is time to confess, somewhat reluctantly, that even the most high-performing schools are necessary but insufficient to overcome the challenges children face when they live in low-income communities in which family instability is the norm. Poverty has always existed, but the institution of family has historically provided the buffer necessary for a poor child to move into the middle class or beyond.

In 1960, fewer than 5 percent of all U.S.. births were out of wedlock,” Rowe writes “Today it’s more than 40 percent.”

The black marriage rate is much lower than the rate for whites at all income levels.

Don’t deny the link between single parenting and poverty, writes Robert Samuelson. It’s real.

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