Think white privilege doesn’t exist in America? Consider just how much the color of a child’s skin changes his or her odds of escaping poverty later in life.
Roughly 16 percent of white children born into the poorest one-fifth of U.S. families will rise to become a member of the top one-fifth by the time they turn 40 years old, according to a new study by Brookings Institution researchers for the Boston Federal Reserve.
Those are fairly bleak odds, but for poor black children the odds of making it to the top are even longer: Only 3 percent of black children born into the poorest one-fifth of families will ever make the leap to the top income group, according to the study.
Even if they don’t always make it to the top of the income ladder, poor whites escape the worst forms of poverty more often than poor blacks. Only 23 percent of poor white children will still be counted among the poorest Americans when they turn 40, while a whopping 51 percent of poor black children will, the researchers found.
This chart shows the social mobility levels for white Americans. The horizontal axis shows where families start out on the income ladder, and the vertical axis shows the percentage of children from those families that end up at each income level by the age of 40.