Nielsen Finds Wealthier Blacks Enjoy Larger Boost in Income and Education than Whites

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Money by 401(k)/Flickr.com
Money by 401(k)/Flickr.com

Working class Blacks notoriously took a hit during the economic recession, but a new report from Nielsen finds that affluent African-Americans emerged from the recession years with more income and education than even whites.

Released last week, Nielsen’s “African-American Consumer Report” found that Blacks who earned more than $60,000 yearly experienced more income growth than whites did from 2005 to 2013. What’s more, the percentage of Black households raking in at least $200,000 actually spiked by 138 percent during this time frame, compared to a 74 percent rise among all American households. The report also found that these Black households enjoyed a median household income increase of $793, compared to $433 for similar white households.

Privileged Blacks have made gains when it comes to college as well, according to Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Nielsen’s senior vice president for U.S. strategic community alliances and consumer engagement.

“The percentage rate of blacks enrolled in college is higher than either Hispanics or whites, which just stunned me,” she told Marketing Daily.

Black immigrants may be driving some of these trends. That’s because these Blacks typically enjoy incomes that are more than 30 percent higher than Blacks born in the U.S. The fact that affluent Blacks have made financial and educational gains over their white counterparts becomes even more significant when considering that African-Americans consume television, radio, digital music and other forms of media at much higher rates than other racial groups.

Blacks spend 42 percent more time watching television than Americans do as a whole, and they spend 15 more time on smartphones. Pearson-McNeil said that this may be because television networks now offer a diverse mix of programming, including shows such as How to Get Away With Murder, for which Viola Davis won an Emmy Sunday for playing lead character, Annalise Keating. It marked the first time a Black actress won an Emmy for her performance as a dramatic lead.

In addition to innovative programming, Pearson-McNeil said that Black Twitter may factor into why African-Americans spend more time on their smartphones. Twitter, for example, birthed the now ubiquitous hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Blacks also stand out for streaming music on their smartphones at a 42 percent higher rate than the rest of the public, with Blacks earning household incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 reportedly 51 percent more likely to stream local radio stations and 24 percent more likely to listen to streaming services such as Pandora or Spotify.

These findings should let advertisers know that African-Americans are a group with which to be reckoned. The report should also send a message to executives in the television and film industries to create more diverse shows and movies rather than hesitate to give such programming the green light. Given the success of shows such as Empire and black-ish or films such as Straight Outta Compton and War Room, the time for Hollywood to view content of interest to minorities as risky has long gone.

While affluent Blacks are enjoying unprecedented privileges, working class Blacks haven’t been as fortunate. A new Pew Research Center study finds that from 2007 to 2013, the median net worth of all Black households dropped by 42.7 percent, compared to 41.9 percent for Hispanics and just 26.3 percent for whites. As a result, the racial wealth gap has expanded.

While white households gained 2.3 percent in median wealth during the post-recession period, Blacks and Hispanics both lost household wealth by percentages of 33.7 percent and 14.3 percent, respectively. Minorities lost wealth because they are much more likely to tap into their savings to make ends meet. Moreover, they’re less likely to own homes and stocks than whites.

So, while it’s praiseworthy that affluent Blacks have made gains in recent years, one can’t celebrate the inroads that these African-Americans have made without recognizing that many Blacks have a ways to go before they enjoy income equality.

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