The Racial Income Gap

We are frequently told by commentators and theorists on the progressive and liberal Left that we live in a systemically racist and patriarchal society. The belief that Western societies privilege white men and oppress people of color, women, and LGBT citizens is especially popular within academic institutions, legacy media, the entertainment industry, and even sports. However, newly released statistics from the US Department of Labor for the third quarter of 2020 undermine this narrative. Asian women have now surpassed white men in weekly earnings. That trend has been consistent throughout this past year—an unprecedented outcome. Full-time working Asian women earned $1,224 in median weekly earnings in the third quarter of this year compared to $1,122 earned by their white male counterparts. Furthermore, the income gap between both black and Latino men and Asian women is wider than it has ever been. The income gap between white and black women, meanwhile, is much narrower than the gap between their male counterparts.

These outcomes cannot exist in a society suffused with misogyny and racism. As confounding to conventional progressive wisdom as these new figures appear to be, copious research finds that ethnic minorities and women frequently eclipse their white and male counterparts, even when these identities intersect. Several ethnic minority groups consistently out-perform whites in a variety of categories—higher test scores, lower incarceration rates, and longer life expectancies. According to the latest data from the US Census Bureau, over the 12 months covered by the survey, the median household incomes of Syrian Americans ($74,047), Korean Americans ($76,674), Indonesian Americans ($93,501), Taiwanese Americans ($102,405), and Filipino Americans ($100,273) are all significantly higher than that of whites ($69,823). The report also finds substantial economic gains among minority groups. Valerie Wilson at the Economic Policy Institute reports that from 2018 to 2019, Asian and black households had the highest rate of median income growth (10.6 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively) of all main racial groups (although she cautions that overall disparities remain “largely unchanged”). On a longitudinal scale, Hispanics, not whites, had the highest income growth in 2019 relative to the start of the Great Recession in 2007 (although many of these gains have been reversed by the pandemic).

Apart from the most obvious theoretical flaw of intersectionality—that it flattens the diverse complexity of human experience into a few arbitrary characteristics—its validity falls apart under empirical scrutiny. For example, despite the greater oppression black women supposedly face compared to white women, a much-publicized 2018 study featured in the New York Times found that black women had slightly higher incomes than white women raised in families with comparable earnings. The earnings of black men, on the other hand, were found to be consistently much lower than those of white men from similar economic backgrounds. Controlling for parental earnings, black women were found to have higher college attendance rates than white men.

A Peculiar Kind of Racist Patriarchy written by Rav Arora

This does not mean that racism does not exist.

This does mean that there is a much more omplex story going on: and it isn’t just white vs black, as the media likes to tell it.

(For one thing, the Asians can stand on their own two feet: and Progressives prefer dependent clients, not independent ones who can walk away.)

A study from the University of Michigan compared the earnings trajectories of African immigrant women and men to their US-born counterparts. The (very left-leaning) researchers went into the study with an intersectional analytic framework, stating: “The double disadvantage would predict that black African women would be disadvantaged by the interaction of their race and gender.” But having analyzed the data, the authors concluded: “However, these are not the patterns that we found.” While African-born black men had lower earnings than US-born white men, African-born black women had higher earnings than US-born white women. Interestingly, the researchers found that the income growth rate of female African immigrants has outpaced that of both US-born men and women. Black female immigrants from Africa saw a 130 percent rise in their income between 1990 and 2010, eclipsing the earnings of both white and black American women. No variance of the oversimplified “institutionalized racism” or intersectionality framework can adequately explain these complex socioeconomic outcomes, even when the researchers are biased in that direction.

A Peculiar Kind of Racist Patriarchy written by Rav Arora

Things will continue to change and develop over time, and the narratives of today will be replaced as they grow obsolete.

Keep your eyes open, and pay attention to what is actually going on.

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