During Black History Month, we’ve highlighted some research and data from recent Brookings scholarship on employment, income, wealth, health, education, and other indicators that highlight racial gaps in America. You can peruse the previous charts here, here, and here.
In their piece on the challenges facing Black men, Richard Reeves, Sarah Nzau, and Ember Smith explain that life expectancy is lowest for Black men compared to other groups both at birth and at age 65. “For white men,” they write, “life expectancy at birth is about 6 years lower than at age 65. But for Black men, that gap is over 9 years—showing that Black men are more likely to die prematurely.” This and the many other facts they cite in their piece on the challenges facing Black men lead Reeves, Nzau, and Smith to call for a “New Deal for Black Men.”
In their new essay, Andre Perry and Carl Romer explore approaching student debt cancellation by wealth, not by income. As tuition costs have risen far more than wages and inflation, they observe, so too have increased amounts of borrowing and student debt. “The problem is especially pertinent for Black households,” they note, “for whom a lack of generational wealth risks making student debt a long-term financial burden.” The wealth disparity between Black and non-Black people means that Black households are not building as much wealth that can help pay off student loans. Perry and Romer argue that “because student debt disproportionately harms the wealth-poor—and the Black wealth-poor in particular—student debt cancellation could be a powerful tool in dismantling institutional discrimination and shrinking racial wealth disparities if implemented correctly.”
“America has a wage problem,” write Sifan Liu and Joseph Parilla in a new essay. “The COVID-19 pandemic brought the low-wage crisis to new heights, as unemployed and underemployed low-wage workers—particularly women and people of color—face severe economic insecurity.” Whereas 44% of all U.S. families before the pandemic did not earn enough income to meet all their living expenses, the chart demonstrates that households headed by women, Black and Latino or Hispanic individuals, and those with less than an associate’s degree are even more likely to be struggling than most. Read their essay to learn more about these data and solutions for local and regional policymakers to create inclusive economic recovery strategies with family-sustaining wages.