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Social Mobility Memos

Trump won white voters, but serious inequities remain for black Americans

Dayna Bowen Matthew and Richard V. Reeves

Donald Trump won the electoral college with wafer-thin majorities in a handful of key states, in part by attracting the support of working class and rural whites. As a result, the plight of the white working class is now a deep concern of pundits, politicians and scholars. But there is a danger that in the rush to understand whites, too much attention is diverted from the group who are, to coin a phrase, the truly disadvantaged: black Americans.

Here are 10 reasons why the circumstances of black Americans ought to remain right at the top of the agenda for policymakers:

1. Food insecurity: More than one in five black families live in households that are food insecure, compared to one in ten white families:

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2. Poverty: Almost four in ten black children live in a household in poverty, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups:

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3. Labor force participation: Among prime-age adults (ages 25 to 54), about one in five black men are not in the labor force, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups:

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4. Criminal justice: Although blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, blacks are over 3 and a half times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession:

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5. Wage gap: For every dollar earned by a white worker, a black worker only makes 74 cents:

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6. Housing: Black families are twice as likely as whites to live in substandard housing conditions:

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7. College debt: Black college graduates now have twice the amount of debt as white college graduates:

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8. Incarceration rate, women: The likelihood of a black woman born in 2001 being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime is one in 18, compared to 1 in 111 for a white woman.

9. Incarceration rate, men: Similarly, the likelihood of a black man being imprisoned is 1 in 3, compared to 1 in 17 for a white man:

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10. Upward mobility: Of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, about half of them will still be there as adults, compared to less than one-quarter of white children:

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None of this takes away from the genuine challenges faced by poor and working class whites. Indeed, many of the issues faced by low-income families—weak wage growth, high housing costs, lack of access to good health care of education—cut across race lines. But it is to say that black Americans continue to face steeper, structural inequities that require urgent attention.

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