Britni Danielle
Mar, 21, 2018

America has long since purported itself to be the nation where anything is possible and where anyone, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they can come, can attain the coveted American Dream. But a new report by the Equality of Opportunity Project found that racism affects Black boys in disproportionately harsh ways, particularly when it comes to income.

According to research, which took a look at census data, Black boys in America are the least likely to make it out of poverty, but are also the fastest to slide into it, no matter the income bracket they grow up in.

“Even children whose parents make the same amount of money, who grow up on the same block, they grow up to have dramatically different incomes in nearly every single neighborhood in the U.S.,” said Nathaniel Hendren, co-author of the Equality of Opportunity Project’s latest study.

“Even for Black sons whose families make roughly a million dollars a year, they are equally likely to be incarcerated as...the white son of a family that makes $40,000 a year,” he explained.

Black girls, on the other hand, don’t seem to fall into the same downward cycle when it comes to income as their male peers, and the difference could be due to higher rates of incarceration for Black men.

“When you control for parental income, Black women actually end up making more money than white women and attend college at higher rates than white men,” Hendren said.

Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, said even though Black men and women both experience racism and discrimination, Black males are often stereotyped and punished more harshly at a young age, which continues throughout their lives through things like racial profiling and harassment from law enforcement.

“It’s not just being Black but being male that has been hyper-stereotyped in this negative way, in which we’ve made Black men scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” Hurd told the New York Times.

Khiara Bridges, a professor of law and anthropology at Boston University, agreed with Hurd’s assessment that no matter the economic status of Black men and boys, antiquated stereotypes can have a negative impact on their ability to move up the income ladder.

“Simply because you’re in an area that is more affluent, it’s still hard for Black boys to present themselves as independent from the stereotype of Black criminality,” he said. 

While many have long argued that real inequality in America happens on a class level, not along racial lines, the Equality of Opportunity Project’s latest study proves otherwise.

“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” Ibram Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, said. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”

Read an in-depth analysis of the Equality of Opportunity Project’s study on the New York Times website.