A Real Demographic Issue, and the Solutions

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Further (and in contrast) to this morning’s post about the notion that Latinos in Rhode Island are “lagging” in some way that requires us all to change the way we do things and add even more government services for their benefit, I’d offer this chart from the Brookings Institution as evidence of a real and actual problem that definitely demands our attention.  The interactive version, titled “Social Mobility Matrix: Race,” on Brookings’s site, gives more detail.

Basically, the chart shows a high degree of mobility for white Americans, meaning that only 23% of whites born into the lowest fifth for income (of all Americans) will remain in that group at age 40. Sixteen percent will have reached the top quintile.  The interactive Brookings version shows that, of whites born into the top fifth for income, about 32% will still be there at age 40, while 10% will have fallen to the bottom.

For black Americans, the picture is very different.  Fully half of those born into the lowest fifth will remain there at age 40, with only 3% having reached the top.  The chart shows no significant number in the top quintile at birth, but of blacks born into the second-highest fifth, only 10% will remain there, while 22% will have fallen all the way to the lowest.

This suggests an appalling lack of opportunity, with the deck stacked against black Americans.  But racism should not be the go-to explanation.  Scroll up on Brookings’s article, for example, and you’ll see that 50% of those born in the bottom fifth to mothers of all races who never married remain in the bottom fifth at age 40.  Meanwhile, 83% of those born to mothers in the bottom fifth who were “continuously married” manage to get out of that group.

So, clearly, cultural considerations are important.  This is what I meant some years ago when I pointed out that changing the definition of marriage in order to include same-sex couples would harm the most vulnerable.   If we insist that there is no link between marriage and creating and raising children, fewer lower-income couples will believe that they should raise children within a married household, making it more likely those children will remain in the lower income groups.  Right now in history, the people in this income demographic are disproportionately black.

For another solution, turn to this post on The American Interest, which quotes a paragraph from another Brookings post on social mobility:

Licensing can act as a form of “opportunity hoarding,” allowing those with resources and connections to benefit from the higher incomes flowing from these occupations, in part by preventing others from competing with them. As Reihan Salam points out, questionable licensing extends well up the income distribution. Dentists in North Carolina prevent other professionals from providing teeth-whitening—even though the procedure is relatively straightforward. Insurance brokers in Utah play a similar game by attempting to make free equivalents of their service illegal. If nurses were allowed to perform more routine medical procedures, doctors would make slightly less, but nurses could earn more and overall health care costs would likely fall.

If you really want a platform to raise people out of poverty and foster income equality, the standard progressive-Democrat line is not only wrong, but detrimental.  You need policies that encourage strong families and allow people to experiment with occupations, keep more of what they earn, and build careers from the bottom up.

Little wonder progressives seek to divide us along racial lines.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    Licensing. A number of years ago it was pointed out to me that the statutes in all 50 states about licensing as a Psychologist were essentially identical. I doubt that is happenstance.
    Quintiles: This morning I fell awake early and played with the computer. For some reason the unusual name of a black lawyer I had met some years ago came to mind. Thinking he would be 90 if still alive, I Googled him. I was amazed to find that G. Bush had awarded him “the Medal” for his service with Tuskegee Airmen (perhaps a unit citation, he was not a pilot and did not serve in war time). The Army also sent him to Yale. His son married a black doctor whom he had met at Harvard. Her father is a doctor. My point is that there does not seem to be any quintile shifts in this marriage. Could it be that social/class issues are as important as race? It also appears that initiative was at work here.

  • ShannonEntropy

    I keep hearing of an island off Maine where Ayn Rand is worshiped and the only accepted currency is gold…

    An old joke is that Rand called her philosophy OBJECTIVISM
    cuz “Being a Selfish Jerk” didn’t sound as nice

    As for using gold as currency … start here =►

    . . . https://www.karatbars.com/index.php?page=home

    • Rhett Hardwick

      She chain smoked Camels (unfiltered) too. Then, of course, there was her sex life; dependent on subservient men.

    • Mike678

      Please explain how the desire not to have the gov’t take the fruits of your labor and give it to others is being ”a selfish Jerk”? Considering, of course, that libertarian/conservative people usually give generously to charities?

      • ShannonEntropy

        I was responding to an earlier thread where Rhett talked about Ayn Rand … sorry for the confusion

        As for this thread … howz about where Justin writes
        This is what I meant some years ago when I pointed out that changing the definition of marriage in order to include same-sex couples would harm the most vulnerable. If we insist that there is no link between marriage and creating and raising children, fewer lower-income couples will believe that they should raise children within a married household, making it more likely those children will remain in the lower income groups.

        This self-contradictory … you should be FOR SSM if you think marriage is an important factor in a child’s future well-being

        Why Justin tossed that into the mix is a mystery … unless you ‘get’ that he is totally opposed to SSM

        • Mike678

          Thanks. It seemed out of character.

          I’m not sure what Justin was getting at with his comment, but I read it as less anti-SSM and more concern with the ramifications of making the definition of marriage so broad that anything goes…with the inference that this will lead to less commitment, more single parent households, and so forth. A bridge too far for me.

          Perhaps we should be less concerned with defining what this commitment between two adults and their children is called and more on what weakens it: easy divorce (social acceptance), EBT/WIC (coupled with social acceptance of unwed single parenthood), etc.

          • OceanStateCurrent

            Redefining the institution locked in the previous erosions of marriage. But the basic point is that a functional institution that encourages a behavior for a particular social good (marriage for the good of children) will be less effective for that purpose if the institution and the good are explicitly unrelated.

            The idea that marriage is all about the tendency of intimate adults to create children and the need for them to raise those children within a committed relationship is no contrary to the law… a radical change forced on the culture through government and mainly through imposition by a handful of judges.

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