Charts of the Week: Three ways of looking at race and inequality in America

A growing upper middle class

In this week’s edition of Charts of the Week, three ways of looking at issues of race and inequality in America.

The economic and public health crisis for Black Americans

Essential Workers in 2020, by Race

In new analysis from the Hamilton Project at Brookings, Bradley Hardy and Trevon Logan write that “Across the economy and society, the distributional consequences of COVID-19 are uneven: the pandemic and its broader economic and health consequences are disproportionately impacting Black Americans.” As the chart above shows, essential workers are disproportionately likely to be Black and Hispanic, jobs that are generally lower paid and higher risk than others. In their essay, the authors detail the myriad ways that the pandemic represents the convergence of a public health and economic crisis for Black Americans.

Hypertension impacts Black Americans more than others

Richard Reeves and Faith Smith examine race and gender data on three health conditions—hypertension, obesity, and diabetes—that are associated with increased risk of poor outcomes when contracting COVID-19. Black men and Black women are especially vulnerable to hypertension, both controlled and uncontrolled. “The COVID-19 pandemic,” they write, “has acted like an x-ray, exposing the breaks in our society on many dimensions,” including underlying health risks and what they describe as a “broken food and nutrition system.”

A Growing upper middle class

A growing upper middle class

In a report for Economic Studies, George Washington University Professor Stephen Rose examines longitudinal data (tracking the same people over time) on income and class position over two 15-year periods. Among his conclusions: “The upper middle class has expanded significantly, while the ‘middle’ middle class (MMC) has shrunk from 50% to 36%,” and that the “proportion of Black Americans in the upper middle class has increased significantly, from just 1% to 14%. But large race gaps remain: 39% of whites are in the upper middle class or higher.”

For more research and analysis, visit the Future of the Middle Class Initiative.