Posted on December 17, 2004

Black Baby Boomers’ Income Gap Cited

Darryl Fears, Washington Post, Dec. 17

Forty years after the end of the baby boom, black Americans born between 1946 and 1964 “are no better off relative to whites than their parents and grandparents” were in terms of income, according to a new Duke University study.

Black baby boomers are still earning about 66 percent of what their non-Hispanic white age peers earn, Duke sociology professors Angela M. O’Rand and Mary Elizabeth Hughes wrote in “The Lives and Times of the Baby Boomers,” which was released Wednesday. That is about equal to the income earned by foreign-born Hispanics, O’Rand and Hughes said.

Black baby boomers did not close the income gap, even though they were the first generation to come of age after the civil rights era, the researchers said.


One cause is education, O’Rand said. African Americans who came of age in the Jazz Age (1916-25) graduated from college at about the same rate as white Americans, according to the study, which was funded by $15,000 from the Russell Sage Foundation in New York and the Population Reference Bureau in Washington. But the graduation rate for African Americans peaked around the mid-1950s.

“That coincides with changes in the education system,” O’Rand said. “You had integration and then a re-segregation that follows because of [white migration to the suburbs] and the rise of private schooling.”

Roderick J. Harrison, a demographer for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington who was not affiliated with the study, said the study also identified lower college graduation rates, which compounded the income disparities because fewer African Americans met on campus, married and brought home two incomes.