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I have long believed that the differences between blacks and whites in educational, professional, and life endeavours were a result of unequal access to institutions and processes. This is not to say that one or the other should be provided enhanced access to said institutions (as affirmative action is/was intended to result in), but that equal access should be guaranteed. I believe that in recent decades this equal access has been available and is now close to guaranteed. One might argue that if equal access is the current status quo, that we should then see equality in the statistics Prof. Becker cited. However, I don't think that logic holds true.

Instead, I would argue that knowledge of the access to institutions and processes has not been as broadly communicated to blacks as it has been to whites. On this point, I believe Prof. Becker is right that it is a generational, time consuming, process to teach people how to navigate beuracratic waters, or said another way "how to play the game". Accordingly, while I do not support affirmative action, I would support a broad based community action to communicate more heavily in traditionally black communities, as oppossed to traditionally white communities, the governmental and charitable programs available to help provide educational assitance (grants, sholarships, etc.) and job placement services. By communicating more aggressively in black communities we will shorten the learning curve on how to access the institutions that are available and thus further narrow the gap that still exists.

In short, equal access used to be the problem, but has been eliminated in recent times. The problem that remains is one of knowledge about how to play the game. One would hope in this time of instant knowledge (via the internet and other technologies) we will be able to fix the current problem in a much shorter period than the decades (centuries?) it took to fix the access problem.


I understand your points Mike, but I think the problem goes to the culture. Most children are growing up fatherless. There are many many grandmothers in their late thirties and early forties. The family structure is broken.

This may take a generation to fix.


“Business success”

I know that we’re not supposed to think about these things, but here’s some free-market datapoints:

Since Parson’s took the chair, Time Warner has lost three-quarters of its market value ($60 in 2002 vs. $15 today);
Chenault took over American Express at around $60 in 2001; the stock is $45 today;
Merrill Lynch under Stan O’Neil was the worst performing investment bank on the street. The stock is unchanged since 2003; in comparison, Goldman Sachs has tripled;

The average rate of return on investment of the pioneering minority-controlled companies referenced in the article is around minus six percent.

And then there is Condoleezza Rice, who likes to compare the Palestinians to the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. You know; both groups had to struggle.

Intelligence is inherited, and not all people are smart enough to be leaders. As a society, we need to come to grips with this.


As a twenty-seven year old white male lawyer who was raised in a rural area, I cannot say that I am an expert in black culture. However, all of my life I have had a love/hate relationship with rap music. My brain despises it, yet my ears love it. Thus, despite my whiter than white background, I do actually know quite abit about rap music.

I found it particulary interesting that Professor Becker noted the haitus in progression began approximatly twenty years ago. This was the exact same time that gangsta rap began to emerge on the mainstream music scene (e.g., NWA's 'Straight Outta Compton,' which is largely considered to be the seminal mainstream gangsta rap album was released in 1988). Although rap had achieved commercial success before this, earlier hitmakers like Run-DMC made songs that were more about partying and girls than being an uber-macho, gun-toting, drug dealing gangster.

Whether or not gangsta rap has had an influence on the behavior of young black--and sometimes white--men is beyond reasonable debate. Of course, it would be too much to say that gangsta rap is solely to blame for all of the problems of young black men. But there appears to be a large gap between the achievments of black women versus black men, and it is a large, influential factor that mainly influences young black men and not young black women.

I think the best solution to this problem is for more black men (such as Obama, Powell, O'Neal, etc.) to achieve successfull, powerful positions. This would, hopefully, provide young black men with more positive masculine role models who could prove to them that although you are black, you do not have to be a gangster to be respected.


I'm also a white male who likes rap music. As I get older, it is easier for me to see how many black boys would not be equipped to listen to rap music without imitating it. I never dealt drugs or joined a gang, but I was raised by loving parents and prepared for a successful life.

I really think Thomas Sowell is on to something in "Black Rednecks White Liberals" explanation. A culture that accepts philandering males and single mothers with virtually no negative backlash is bound to have a messed up family situation. Unstable/sub-optimal family situations tend to screw people up.


"The most promising approaches in my opinion involve ...the legalization of drugs.."

Do you think Senator Obama or any of the Republican candidates might propose that? In your view, should there be substituted use restrictions in place of the current possession restrictions, somewhat akin to the transition from Prohibition to DWI and public intoxication laws.


Prof Becker is on to something here, but doesn't make quite enough of it:

"A disturbing fact is that growing up in families that invest less in their children casts a long shadow since children brought up in these families tend also to invest less in their children."

.......... Recently a saw a figure of $150-$190k as the family cost to raise a kid. Obviously the "tend to invest less" is due to circumstance and not choice. Were we as a society desirous of breaking the cycle we'd likely give more assets to schools in low income areas to facilitate smaller classes and or more mentors, coaches or tutors to make up for the lack of such at home. Sadly the opposite is true; wealthy suburbs spend more on their schools while our property tax funding schemes means less school funding in the "left behind" areas.

The other disappointing fact is that of America becoming "resegregated" with the poor of both black and white living separate from wealthier folks of both colors. This is unfortunate as in towns of less segregation kids of lower incomes may have friends of higher incomes which often gives them chances to live and see a better life as well as seeing better role models and understanding that being of the technical or professional class is not beyond their grasp.

As Becker indicates, for the most part we know what is required but lack the political will to execute the plan. Do our priorities favor the $100 billion/year cost of eliminating the inheritance tax? or using those funds to improve our community or give a better start to all of our kids?


While I agree with Jack's comment that the tendency to invest less in children is a function of circumstance rather than choice in many instances, the answer is not to dedicate scarce resources indiscriminately to schools in low income areas. Rather, choice and/or vouchers is essential to empower those who will choose to break the cycle with what is required to make that happen.
As yet another white male who likes some hip hop music in spite of the often destructive messages it communicates, I see no good free market solution, other than the diligent enforcement by parents of limited exposure to the messages until young men have developed a foundation that allows them to place these lyrics in better context.
In response to Bill, I am pretty sure he could quickly and easily come up with a list of even more spectacular business and political "failures" of white men.


Rather, choice and/or vouchers is essential to empower those who will choose to break the cycle with what is required to make that happen.

I agree. In fact I'd say that the real reason so many people are against school choice is they don't want poor black kids in their middle class mostly white schools.


The differences that persist post-1980 look to be about the magnitudes that one would expect as a result of average differences in years of parental education and levels of parental wealth/incomes. I predict that if someone splits other "ethnic" groups by these variables so as to get groups comparable with the average "black" or with the average "white", there will be pretty small residuals (the signs of which may be positive or negative).

What I do not understand is how come the USA still has such distinct ethnic groups. In many other countries (not all), this sort of difference is hard to trace after two or three generations.



Good question - I think that political drivers reward the creation of distinct ethnic blocs. By grouping together they believe their caucus or bloc has greater bargaining power for their like-minded ethnic constituencies. i.e. the Democratic Black Caucus.

In other words, there is perceived power by maintaining ethnic labels. So to an extent, these labels are self-imposed.

Whether or not it helps, I know not.


I think Becker is correct in suggesting that drug legalization and incentives to encourage two-parent families would help narrow the income gap. However, I suggest that he analyze one additional factor, that being intrafamily capital transfers.

The period since the late 1960s has been a time when investing in one's education, a home, or a business has been almost always a positive move. Thus, those families who had capital at the beginning of that period could be expected to have relatively larger incomes thanks to the return on their invested capital. So I suggest that being born with capital (which whites are to a far greater degree than blacks) may partly explain some of this persistent disparity.


It surprises me that so few of these comments mention the fact that black communities are communities with few fathers and communities where women are generally in charge of families. Communities without fathers in charge of families lack a sense of a future and the organization that goes along with striving for something better. The internal dynamic of hope for the future is missing.


Jim how would this work? In the real world?

"Rather, choice and/or vouchers is essential to empower those who will choose to break the cycle with what is required to make that happen."

.........Ummmm, instead of the current trend of COURT MANDATED equity and adequacy of school funding there would be a FULLY FUNDED voucher for "those kids" to bus on out to the suburban schools?

I mention fully funded as so far the game seems to be only that of a vouchette which would NOT cover the costs of most private schools. Thus! what we'd see are "vouchette plus" school pricing that would keep out those who didn't have the "plus" or "plus-plus", in short one more round of white flight with "those kids" stuck in the underfunded schools as they are today.


John while "fatherless homes" is surely a factor that should be mentioned, it should also be noted that RATE of "fatherless" "black" homes is but twice that of "white" homes. Thus, with so many more "white" there are more "fatherless" "white" homes than "black".

Again, we seems to arrive at problems common to the lower income sector that cut across racial lines.


Strange that nobody proposed simples explanation so far : education, earnings, and health gaps between whites and blacks are due to genetic differences.
Yes, this theory called Racism but calling it Racism does not prove that is erroneous explanation


The growth of the hispanic community over the last twenty years, plus the decline in manufacturing, has left fewer venues for unskilled African Americans to advance.

Plus I don't know why African Americans seem so attracted to public sector jobs. Wait unemployment seems rampant in the African American community (i.e. waiting for an opening in public sector).

Lastly, personal connections do matter in a job search. Informal connections make a big difference. Could our current President Bush survive his mis-spent youth if he didn't have family connections. For that matter, one of the most amazing things about Senator Obama is the number of people who have tried to help him along the way.


Nikita: While strongly doubting the veracity of your racist theory, I wonder if you've a similar theory as to the seeming genetic superiority of "blacks" in so many different sports and the more creative arts such as music from jazz to the whole genre of rock, blues and the music that has since evolved from these roots?

BTW, noting DanC's comments on connections, networks, and dare I mention lingering racial biases do you happen to have any material on the correlation between raw IQ scores and upward mobility?

And lastly, do I recall some similar theories about the Irish when they were the new immigrants and a German "experiment" with creating a super race? Thanks, Jack


Jack, good question. I am not an expert in this field, but I do see the ideal being to transition to a fully funded system. Each student would have the right to the per-pupil amount that we currently spend, which would generally cover current private school tuition. However, this would also increase the supply of schools competing to attract these students.
And, not just the best and brightest, but I would bet anyone that will come in with parental support and commitment, willingness to accept a disciplined learning environment and adhere to societal behavior norms.
Does this leave those who do not meet these criteria stuck in "underfunded" schools as is the case today? These schools would receive the same per pupil allocation as others, but I know these will probably not be the kind of place I would want to send my child. But, we've got to start somewhere, and it should be with those who show the commitment to learn.



There is more genetic disparity amongst blacks than between blacks and whites. That is why most anthropologists will tell you that "race" is a figment of society's imagination. Society draws the line between black and white, not genetics. (Caveat: ethnic tribes may share greater genetic similarities, but I'm referring to "Race" as we use it in the US, as in black/white people)Obviously, genetics does not answer the complex questions that are addressed in the original post.


Jim, thanks for the reply. I'm with you on equitable funding for ALL of our kids, and I doubt that most here are truly aware of how disparate the funding in most states has become. THAT would be a good start and one that is very slowly grinding through the courts systems today. Examples of states now operating under court mandates to improve equity and adequacy includes TX, NY, MO and a number of other states.

(See accessednetwork.org to check out your state and to catch up on what is the situation.)

However the rest of your post seems to take it back, especially with the, seeming, code talk of "commitment to learn", "societal behavior norms" and not where I'd want to send "MY kid".

As for this "competition" among schools; what does THAT mean? Even in the area of "competing" universities it is not at ALL clear that more education takes place at the "ivies" or "good" schools than other colleges. In fact they compete by aggressively reaching out in order to enhance their ratio of applicants to acceptance.

What America needs is a higher standard of universal, free, education in preK-12 or........ in my view 14 as it is our average that is dragging us down. In short the "start somewhere" WOULD be that of bringing UP those in our least successful areas. The fact of our prison population being 30% literate in a nation claiming 95% literate is a clear hint, and remember that our prison population is about half "white" and half "black".

Marty Geraghty

Cui bono? is perhaps the most important question to ask in all public policy debates. Who benefits from the existence of a vast, black underclass, rendered, or at least maintained, functionally illiterate by an urban educational system that from generation to generation fails to produce high school graduates, (especially male high school graduates) eligible for college?

Asked another way, for whom would the emergence of a black middle class, with aspirations and abilities essentially equal to its white analog, be a disaster? The answer is the Democratic Party in America. If academic, and therefore economic, progress for people currently in the African American underclass were to render them as likely to vote Republican as their Irish and Italian and Polish predecessors on the bottom rungs of our economic ladder, the Democratic Party would cease to exist.

The Democrats find themselves in a uniquely advantageous position in this regard: Because they run essentially all urban public education systems, they hold all the levers of power they need to prevent the societal phenomenon that would put them out of business. Ask this question another way: If the disaster here were causing (instead of preventing) a persistent decline in the electoral success of the Democrats, would the people who run our urban school systems come back year after year resisting all change in the fundamental structure of the system, but merely demanding more cash to enrich the white (and black) middle class folks who operate and are fed by the system?


Marty; Read your intro question and was wondering if the answer was those who'd most benefit from maintaining a slave-class under a charade of "freedom".

However, re your partisan conclusion wouldn't it seem that in a "competitive" world Republicans might have created a product more attractive to "black" voters than what they have done so far? Given that "blacks" actually tend conservative with the highest percentage of church attendance and the dream of upward mobility in mind I often find it surprising that the R's can only attract 9%. I guess that's the highest mandate on any issue I can think of in America, eh?

As for your hand-wringing over our educational system, I'm fairly sure you'd think yourself and yours got fairly good K-12 education....... but have little concern about "those" schools of the "left behind" areas that are poorly funded and can not attract the best of teacher talent.

BTW...... with boomer teachers retiring in droves and with young women having FAR more occupational choices than did their mothers, would you conclude that if we want to attract ANY teaching talent that all teaching salaries will have to become more competitive with salaries offered to college grads in private industry?


I hesitate to dignify Bill's post with a response, but I think two things need to be stated clearly and without ducking any issues...regardless of how tactless and ill-informed I may find his arguments

First, Bill asserts that "[i]ntelligence is inherited, and not all people are smart enough to be leaders. As a society, we need to come to grips with this."

The idea that intelligence is innate and immutable has been falsified in enumerable studies dating back over 50 years. I do not deny a biological element...only that this is in any way dispositive.

Further, there is the too-obvious flaw of asserting a causal link without evidence.

Eric Rasmusen

Surely the very high rates of black criminality are relevant. These rose from 1960 to 1980 or so, then stabilized, and have declined since the 90s, but only with much higher imprisonment rates. White rates rose too, but started from a lower percentage base.

I'm surprised some people think that cheaper legalized drugs would aid black progress. Most of the crime I allude to above is not drug crime.

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