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Researchers: Middle-Class Blacks and Hispanics Live in Poorer Neighborhoods

black neighborhood 1Researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education have found that Black and Hispanic families need higher incomes than white families to live in comparably affluent neighborhoods. White and Asian families with similar annual incomes tend to live in more affluent neighborhoods, with neighbors that make more.

According to their definition, middle-class families earn $50,000 a year, while affluent ones make $100,000, and low-income households make $20,000 annually.

In other words, a low-income white family can live in a neighborhood with a median annual income of $46,000, but a Black family will most likely live in an area with a median income range of $34,000. In fact, to more extremes, a Black family earning $50,000 a year will live in a neighborhood earning roughly $40,000 median annually.

Poorer neighborhoods mean more social problems like crime, violence, lack of resources and weaker schools. This can make upward mobility for Black and Hispanic children even harder. This raises questions about equal access and diversity of American cities and suburbs. This, according to researchers, creates a double disadvantage. The poorest Black children not only suffer because their families have lower incomes, but because they live in neighborhoods with far fewer support and resources. Meanwhile a white family making only $13,000 a year, tend to live in a middle-class neighborhood that has a stronger social support system, with neighbors making a median annual income of $45,000.

“It’s relatively well known that black families on average live in poorer neighborhoods, but a lot of people presume that’s simply because black families are poorer,” said Dr. Sean Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford and lead study author. “But if that were all there was to it, you would find poor whites living in the same kinds of neighborhoods as poor blacks. What we found, however, was that even blacks who have the same household incomes as whites live in poorer neighborhoods.”

Thus, discrimination is still pervasive in the housing market. Rich or poor, whites still live in neighborhoods that are at least 80 percent white; while Blacks live in communities that are a third to one-half Black. Another factor is the wealth gap; whites have 12 times more wealth than Blacks and 10 times more than Hispanics. So a young white couple may be able to afford a home in a more affluent neighborhood than a Black couple making the same.

The long-term consequences of racial and economic segregation are very real. Black and Hispanic children do not have the same educational opportunity as white and Asian children. They are also less likely to go to college, have lower earnings as an adult and become single parents. Thus, despite Blacks making more money and struggling to obtain the American dream of owning a home in good neighborhoods — their children may still fall behind the social ladder.

S.C. Rhyne is an author and blogger living in New York City. You can follow her at @ReporterandGirl and check out her blog at

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