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2.5 Million Black Men Are in the Upper Class


Thomas Timothy Tart

Executive Administrator at Private Company

By: Wendy Wang


The racial news in America has been sobering in recent years. From Trayvon Martin to Walter Scott, from Ferguson to Charlottesville, one incident after another has cast a pall over race relations in the nation. In fact, the share of Americans who consider racism a big problem has almost doubled in the last decade. Meanwhile, recent research on race—including Raj Chetty and colleagues’ new study showing that black boys’ chance of moving up the economic ladder are much lower than white boys—only makes the picture look worse.

But the negative news about race in general and black men, in particular, is not the whole story. Our new report,Black Men Making It In America, finds that despite the burdens they face—from residential segregation to workplace discrimination to over incarceration—more than one-half of black men have made it into the middle or upper class as adults. This means that millions of black men are flourishing financially in America.

But how many black men have made it, specifically, into the American upper class? In a new analysis of Census data, we find that slightly more than one-in-five (or about 2.5 million) black men ages 18 to 64 have made it into the upper-third of the income distribution.

In fact, black men have made marked progress over the last half-century in reaching the upper ranks of the income ladder. The share of black men who are in the upper-income bracket rose from 13% in 1960 to 23% in 2016, according to our analysis. Moreover, poverty among black men has dropped dramatically over the same time, with the share of black men in poverty falling from 41% to 18% since 1960.