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PolicyLink: Black Prosperity in America

Analyzing disparities in the Black-White wage gap—and why educational attainment or upskilling alone won't solve it.



The data

This viz includes data from the Educational Attainment, Wages: Median, and Racial Equity in Income indicators on the National Equity Atlas. The original data source is the US Census American Community Survey provided by IPUMS USA, which the Atlas team gathers and aggregates for cities and metro areas that are geographically consistent over time.

The visualization

To highlight our focus on the Black population, we removed racial/ethnic groups other than Black and White from most of the displays and emphasized the Black population data through color and size, as well as contextual narrative around the disparities visible in the dashboards.

The historical context

These disparities are driven by deep-seated anti-Black racism. Educational attainment gaps derive from segregation, disinvestment in neighborhoods and schools, and more. Racial wage gaps stem from these structures of oppression, but also anti-Black prejudice and a long history of segregating workers of color into lower-paying professions.

The current implications

Increasing access to higher education is critical but not sufficient for achieving racial equity. The data underscore the need for strategies to expand access and affordability of higher ed, while also eliminating occupational segregation and pay disparities in the workforce.


Data Deep-Dive

Key takeaways to guide analysis

The Black-White educational attainment gap

1 in 5 Black adults have a college degree, compared to over 1 in 3 White adults.

A persistent wage disparity

Black college grads earn an average of $0.80 for every dollar earned by their White counterparts.

The potential of equity

If we achieve an equitable society, the typical Black worker would see a 63% increase in income.