For Richer or Poorer

Like many of you, I am digesting this Times piece about a groundbreaking longitudinal study by Raj Chetty et al on economic mobility by race.  The piece and the study are full of incredibly interesting points, but the headline finding - that boys from rich black families are just as likely to end up poor as boys from poor white families (and this is not the case for girls) absolutely stunned me.

Hailing from a high-earning household should put you on solid footing for your own economic achievement.  And, despite the mythology around economic mobility in America, by and large your parents' present salary levels is a pretty good predictor of your future salary levels.  Except, it seems statistically, for black men.

Amy and I are parenting a future black man. We want to believe that he will be a decent human being, raised in a respectable family and given every opportunity and advantage to flourish.  But the cold hard facts tell us that this society pushes a disproportionate number of black men who start from a very high position down to a very low position, in ways that it does not do for any other race, ethnicity, or gender.

One of the luxuries of affluence is being able to afford the time, money, and connections to provide the best prenatal care to your child to be.  This is increasingly understood as being a huge difference maker in the future health and well-being of kids from rich families versus poor families.   Yet this head start that rich black families give their boys does not appear to be strong enough to countervail other forces that hold those same boys back.

I will not disclose what level of prenatal care Asher received, but even if it was the best it would not be enough.  We are preparing him for a world that we increasingly understand to be difficult for and hostile to black men.  May God have mercy on him, and on us as his parents, and on our society that too often holds back people who look like him.

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