Income Inequality, Black Parents and Moving On Up
Did you think your family would be like the Cosby’s growing up? For me, before the Cosby’s there were the Jefferson’s and the Evan’s (Good Times) family. Around dinner time every weekday evening my family sat down to watch an hour of rerun back to back episodes. The episodes began as my mama fixed our dinner plates, signaling it was time for me to fix myself a ice cool glass of red Kool-Aid. My mama and daddy sat on the couch with their plates on their laps, while my sister and I sat parallel on the den floor. Our dinner plates atop carefully laid pieces of newspaper. We loved to watch both families while we chomped away on smothered pork chops or oxtails and rice leftover from Sunday’s dinner. We identified with the way that both displayed the importance of family, issues of the Black community and Black language. It was really of little consequence to me then that one lived in a ghetto and the other in a penthouse. Oh, but now with children I see the Jefferson’s with different eyes. I think about the opportunities that Lionel had versus J.J., Thelma and Michael. The Evans’ family struggled to get JJ art supplies, Thelma dance lessons and Michael a decent educational route to law school. Lionel went straight to college and then became an engineer. In one episode Lionel quit his engineering job. The wondrous privileges of nepotism allowed him to make a failed attempt at running George’s stores. More than the familiar Black language I see now that the Jefferson’s were proof positive that moving on up provides a host of opportunities that parents can pass on to their child. As second generation college graduates my husband and I hope, as I am sure all parents do, that we will be able to provide a nice educational shelter for our own children. What does a nice educational shelter look like for us? Providing our children with access to great schools, freedom to only worry about what college to attend after high school, which internships to apply to during college and which job opportunities abound after college graduation. By any measure we hope our children will do better than ourselves and our parents. That they too will one day be able to move on up. Studies have found that Blacks have not been very successful at passing on their wealth to their children. Some speculate that it could be because of:
- less intergenerational inheritance,
- higher unemployment and lower incomes,
- differing rates and patterns of homeownership,
- marriage and
- college education
- In 2009 the typical Black household had a net worth of $5,677 in 2009 compared to $113,149 for White households.
- In fact, after adjusting for inflation, the median net worth for black households in 2011 ($6,446) was lower than it was in 1984 ($7,150), while white households’ net worth was almost 11% higher.