To Be Poor, To Be Black, To Be Poor and Black

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong
by Matt O’Brien, The Washington Post

Poor Grads, Rich Dropouts

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.

But even if they didn’t, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That’s, in part, because they’re targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they’re more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.

White High School Drop-Outs Are As Likely To Land Jobs As Black College Students
by Susan Adams, Forbes

African-Americans college students are about as likely to get hired as whites who have dropped out of high school. So says a new report from a non-profit called Young Invincibles, which analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census and examined the effect race and education levels have on unemployment. “We were startled to see just how much more education young African-Americans must get in order to have the same chance at landing a job as their white peers,” said Rory O’Sullivan, deputy director of Young Invincibles, in a statement.

by Gwen Sharp, PhD, The Society Pages


joblessness prison

Group Membership

Life Event




14 thoughts on “To Be Poor, To Be Black, To Be Poor and Black

    • I came across the first article. I immediately thought of other data I’d seen. This clearly shows what is meant by intersectionality. Classism is bad. Racism is bad. But classism and racism combined is far worse.

      • I wrote about the first article myself on facebook yesterday and didn’t connect the racial component. While I don’t use intersectionality theory because I think the epistemology undergriding it is questionable, this is an example of “intersecting” or overlapping areas of oppression that is really depressing.

        • Would you mind telling me more about the issue you take with the epistemology of intersectionality? It has only been this past year that I came across intersectionality. My study of it hasn’t gone very far yet.

          • I just read that.article of yours. I’m going to have to let it settle and digest a bit. I appreciate this deeper view of identity and class issues. I was thinking about this in another context recently. I might write about it, but I’m not sure if or how my own thoughts might relate to your own.

            Here is the part of your article most caught my attention:

            “To break this down further, merely wishing that such identity categories could be subordinated to class through abandoning all reifications of identity misses that class itself is much more complicated than “laborer” vs “owner” or “poor” vs “rich” (neither are the same class analyses either). The experience and power within the larger working class which is increasingly proletarianized on every level does intersect with race, gender, and sex as well as other identity categories such as region, national language, religious heritage, etc. Some of these identity categories are apparent personal choices—although the religiosity of a person being so predictable by race, class, and region makes this claim more suspect than it initially appear—others are not. When I have beers with a black friend, the part of me that is white wants to see him as colorless because I feel colorless. This is not going to happen: his experience of the world is objectively different from mine, and I can no more relieve him of his “blackness” than I could deny that there was a power dynamic between us. This is true with female friends and comrades. This is true with all sorts of people. This is not individual: my friend may want to deny their identity-category as well. They may want that but they cannot do that. In the case of gender or sex, there is no way for them to do this anyway. This is because these identities are social, and non-arbitrary even if not essential. The definition of “white” and “black” as racial categories is nationally-contingent as well as historically-contingent, but I can no more undo that by calling for the abolition of identity than a can be merely rejecting the notion of class.”

  1. America is pretty far from a meritocracy. The political right has argued in the past that there is a trade off between meritocracy and equality. It does not appear that this is the case.

    As society becomes more and more unequal, it becomes less meritocratic, not more meritocratic.

    The other take away is that the prospects for the average Black citizen is very grim indeed.

    • It is a tough word, in particular for poor blacks. But it is a tough world even for many who aren’t poor blacks. As the first article shows, all poor people of all races/ethnicities have the odds stacked against them. Also, not mentioned above, even wealthier blacks experience high rates of racial prejudice and bias.

  2. The issue here is that it’s getting to be a tough world for everyone in the bottom 95%.

    The US is getting less equal and as that happens, the very wealthy will entrench themselves and use their political power to get more power for themselves – at the expense of all else.

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