Oct 9, 2019

The striking upward mobility gap between black and white men

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Reproduced from Chetty, et. al, 2018, "Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective"; Note: Location based on where men grew up; Map: Axios Visuals

The fastest-growing cities in the U.S. may be adding lots of jobs for well-off people, but many have low rates of upward mobility for lower-income kids growing up there. And it's especially bleak for black males, according to Raj Chetty, Harvard economics professor and director of Opportunity Insights, a research and policy organization.

Why it matters: The extent of racial disparities and economic mobility "is so extreme in the U.S. that it's almost like they're two Americas," Chetty said about the maps above.

  • The places that have the very highest rates of mobility for black men, like Boston, actually have lower rates of upward mobility than the very worst places of upward mobility for white men, like Charlotte.
  • Chetty's research showed that job growth and investment happening in Charlotte and Atlanta, for example, aren't creating opportunities evenly, and black male youths are disproportionately being left behind.

What they did: The researchers analyzed outcomes of about 4 million families that moved across neighborhoods and tracked the outcomes of children of low-income parents over 30 years.

What they found: Childhood environments are stronger indicators of upward mobility than where individuals go to college or move as young adults.

  • Moving to a better neighborhood at a very young age correlated with much stronger upward mobility as adults. In fact, every extra year of exposure to better childhood environments improved outcomes.

Downward mobility is also critical. White men from affluent families are likely to stay affluent as adults. But black men from affluent backgrounds are nearly just as likely to end up in the bottom tier of the income distribution than the top tier.

"If you think of achieving the American dream as climbing an income ladder for white Americans, it’s more like being on a treadmill for black Americans. Even after you've made the climb up in one generation, there are tremendous structural forces that tend to push you back down in the next generation and you have to make the climb again."
— Raj Chetty, speaking at the Results for America Summit in Washington, D.C.

And the disparities are likely to worsen over the next decade.

  • By 2030, African American workers stand to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs as a result of increased automation, widening the racial wealth gap and weighing down overall U.S. growth, according to a report from McKinsey & Co.

The bottom line: A strong national economy only goes so far. The most important factor in determining upward mobility is the conditions in the half-mile radius around where you live, Chetty said.

  • "While we often think of the decline of the American dream as a national problem — a challenge we’d like to solve through federal policy solutions — I really think the roots of these issues are at the very local level."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.