America’s big racial economic disparity is less between blacks and other races than between black men and nonblack men. America offers countless affirmative-action and diversity-inclusion-equity programs to reduce racial gaps, which black women appear to do a decent job of taking advantage of. But black men tend to be so self-burdened by criminal records and other dysfunctional behavior that many fail to exploit modern America’s pro-black bias.
BY STEVE SAILER FOR TAKI’S MAGAZINE
Since May 25, 2020, America has crucified itself over a single statistic: Blacks are two to three times more likely to die at the hands of the police than are whites, making up 25 to 35 percent of police killings.
In contrast, other data points that could add nuance to the conversation are considered by the prestige press to be extremely inappropriate to mention.
For example, the most careful estimate yet of what percentage of murders in America blacks committed in 2021 comes up with a best guess of 64 percent of all cases, cleared and uncleared. This suggests that blacks are recently an order of magnitude more homicidal than the entire rest of the population (including Hispanics).
“Do differences in income explain all of the black-white gap in serious crime? No.”
This is an astonishing ratio. Without being aware of it, it’s practically impossible to think intelligently about many of the most pressing public issues of the 2020s.
My impression is that most Americans are only aware of this datum in their private lives but not when it comes to public debate. Only the growing ranks of the consciously anti-woke (the type of ornery individual who responds to the usual clueless mainstream media articles with quantitative comments citing government crime statistics) understand the magnitude and importance of this statistic.
I’ve noticed that when true believers in the conventional wisdom are confronted with the official numbers, they often respond with arguments that clearly haven’t been battle-tested.
For example, a common rejoinder is that blacks have higher homicide rates only because the police are keeping an eye on them more closely. This might sound plausible for, say, jaywalking tickets, but it makes no sense to postulate that tens of thousands of additional whites must be getting murdered each year by other whites without anybody noticing or talking about it. In reality, unsolved murders of young white women tend to become national obsessions.
Other retorts focus on moral culpability: e.g., blacks shouldn’t be blamed for committing more murders because of the lingering effects of 1619, Jim Crow, and/or New Deal redlining.
First, whether or not blacks have a good excuse for their murder rate is irrelevant to the fact that their murder rate is what it is. We could have avoided public policy disasters like the current boom in homicides and traffic fatalities during the “racial reckoning” if we hadn’t been so willfully ignorant of this fundamental fact of American life.
Second, it’s hard to see how putative causes in the increasingly distant past, such as the white murder of black Emmett Till 68 years ago, can explain why black shootings and car crashes exploded immediately after George Floyd.
Third, the most scientific-sounding excuse is that blacks commit more killings because they were raised in lower-income households (which can in turn be blamed on slavery or whatever).
After all, it is true that the poor do shoot each other more than the rich do, and blacks are, indeed, less well-paid than are whites.
So, do differences in income explain all of the black-white gap in serious crime?
The conclusive data was assembled by the remarkably industrious Harvard economist Raj Chetty in his 2019 paper “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective.”
Chetty has strenuously positioned himself as an anti-racist good guy, so the fact that his data has repeatedly vindicated bad guy Steve Sailer’s perceptions has yet to register on the less bright members of the media (e.g., not Matt Yglesias).
Over a decade ago, Chetty set out to find where in America was the Magic Dirt upon which poor kids most often rose to the middle class. And where was the Tragic Dirt that condemned them to another generation of poverty? Then, all we’d have to do is learn the lessons of what they are doing right in the good places and doing wrong in the bad places.
But when Chetty published his first map of high and low social mobility in The New York Times in 2013, I immediately pointed out that his findings of regions with strong upward mobility were simply white places, like the upper Great Plains and Utah. And his low upward mobility spots were black regions like the Cotton Belt or American Indian reservations. This is because blacks and Native Americans regress toward lower mean incomes than whites.
Ever since, I’ve probably developed more insights from Chetty’s data than he has. The Indian-born savant is not a particularly acute analyst of this country. But he is a prodigious compiler of data that previously had been thought off-limits due to privacy rights.
Chetty’s methodological brainstorm was to forge relationships with federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau so that they would provide him with individual data, such as your tax returns, but in “anonymized” form.
So far, I haven’t heard of any scandals about leaks of personal information from Chetty’s operation, so the feds appear right to have trusted him.
Chetty then linked information from different bureaus using an anonymized version of your Social Security number, so he knows what your income is from your 1040 and what your race is from your Census form. He knows who your kids are from whom you claimed as a dependent in the 1990s, what college they went to, if they were involuntary guests of correctional facilities on the day of the 2010 Census, and how much income they earned up through 2015.
He’s built a database of 21 million Americans born between 1978 and 1983. He knows their parents’ incomes for 1994–2000 (when the kids were between 11 and 22 years old), if they were in jail on April 1, 2010, when they were about 30, and how much income they reported in 2014–2015 when they were in their mid-30s.
Here’s my graph of Chetty’s crucial findings:
If you don’t believe my graph, The New York Times published a fairly similar graph of the same data in 2018, and Chetty created his own graph. My graph is more self-evident, but it’s the same shape as the other two.
By the way, I don’t know why Chetty didn’t make available to the public the Hispanic imprisonment rate. Perhaps framing his data solely as black vs. white makes more plausible-sounding racist, antiwhite interpretations such as the NYT’s hilarious headline on Chetty’s findings: “Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys.”
The fact that Hispanics have improved their relative law-abidingness while blacks have not is an unwelcome distraction for Chetty’s career prospects.
The horizontal axis represents their parents’ income in 1994 to 2000 by percentile of the entire population. Each single percentile represents 213,000 Americans born around 1980.
In case you are wondering, Chetty is using the same income scale for both blacks and whites. Thus, in the highest percentile, the “One Percent” of Occupy Wall Street demonology, there are 186,600 whites and only 1,800 blacks.
The left vertical axis is the percentage of the parents’ sons who were incarcerated on April 1, 2010, when they were 26 to 32 years old. Among black men (black line) raised in the lowest percentile of parental household income, over 21 percent were locked up vs. over 6 percent of white men (blue line) raised in the same extreme poverty.
For both races, incarceration rates fall steadily with increasing affluence of upbringing. Among whites, only 0.2 percent of sons of the One Percent were in the slammer. Among blacks, the lowest percentage (1.6 percent) is found in the 98th percentile, before the incarceration rate rises in the two highest-income percentiles.
This curious anomaly could just be due to statistical noise. In the top two percentiles of upbringing reckoned across all races, there were only about 2,100 youngish black men altogether and roughly 45 of them were under lock and key.
Or it could be that this third-highest percentile is the most bourgeois among blacks, featuring, say, partners in law and CPA firms, while the top two percentiles are more loaded with black jocks and entertainers, whose sons tend to be more of a handful.
With that minor exception, why do richer kids wind up in jail less often? There are no doubt numerous reasons of nurture and nature, ranging from the wealthy being able to afford better defense attorneys, to neighborhoods without youth gangs to ensnare your son into a life of crime being more expensive, and on to genetics. In general, being wealthy is good, and you should strive for it for the sake of your kids.
The right vertical axis denotes the ratio (red line) of the black percentage incarcerated divided by the white. Unexpectedly, it rises steadily with childhood affluence.
Among men raised in the dirt-poor first percentile, blacks are 3.3 times as likely to be imprisoned.
At the 25th percentile, blacks are confined 3.9 times as often.
At the 50th percentile, the ratio is 4.5 to one and at the 75th percentile it’s 5.0.
At the 98th percentile, the ratio is 6.7, before exploding to 10.7 at the 100th.
The median black household income falls around the 27th to 28th percentile nationally, where black men are locked up 4.0 times as often as white men. So that’s probably the best summary statistic: All else being equal in terms of household income during adolescence, black men are four times as likely to find themselves behind bars as white men.
That’s a huge disparity.
For instance, black men at the 98th percentile of upbringing, the best-behaved black cohort, are jailed as often as white men at the 50th percentile. Similarly, the black rate at the national median of income is 7.2 percent, a little higher than the white rate at the single lowest percentile.
That suggests that there is approximately a two standard deviation difference in racial propensity to be prison-bound even when controlling for affluence when young.
In the social sciences, a one standard deviation difference, such as in IQ, is very large. Two is almost unheard of. Two standard deviations after adjusting for childhood income is off the charts.
Why does the black-to-white ratio get steadily worse with higher income?
I don’t know. Before seeing Chetty’s data, I might have guessed it shrank.
Is the cause racism?
Well, if it is, racism doesn’t much hinder black women. They appear to be incarcerated only about 30 percent more often than white women raised with the same family income, not 300 percent more often as with black men.
In general, racism provides a boring and obtuse all-purpose faith-based rationalization for everything otherwise interesting about American life. But can racism create a rock too heavy to lift off the backs of African-Americans?
More interestingly, I’ve been arguing since the 1990s that blacks average more masculinity than other races. This has its upsides where maleness is a plus, such as blacks playing more on Super Bowl-winning teams. But it also has its downsides, such as blacks committing more felonies.
Every culture has to deal with the inevitable problems caused by rampant masculinity. For example, Europe spent over a thousand years nagging and cajoling its hereditary warlords into behaving a little more like Christian gentlemen.
What has never worked is giving up the struggle, as American culture has more or less done in this decade. Lately, we’ve declared that all empirical evidence of bad behavior by blacks must be proof of white malevolence.
Not surprisingly, this cultural collapse is inducing blacks to behave even worse:
As it turns out, black men are about four times more likely than white men whose parents had the exact same income to be imprisoned, with, perhaps surprisingly, the black-to-white racial ratio getting even worse at higher childhood incomes.
Besides crime, Chetty’s research collating millions of IRS 1040 returns with Census forms also provides an enormous amount of insight into racial differences in income.
So, I’ll continue my symbiotic relationship in which Chetty crunches the numbers and I explain what they mean.
America’s big racial economic disparity is less between blacks and other races than between black men and nonblack men.
America offers countless affirmative-action and diversity-inclusion-equity programs to reduce racial gaps, which black women appear to do a decent job of taking advantage of. But black men tend to be so self-burdened by criminal records and other dysfunctional behavior that many fail to exploit modern America’s pro-black bias.
Looking at individual rather than household income on tax returns, Chetty found that in 2014–2015 the median white woman age 31 to 37 made 30 percent more than the median black woman. But white men made well over twice as much as black men.
|Median Individual Incomes|
|Male||Female||M / F|
|W / B||223%||130%|
So, during these prime child-rearing years, white men make over 50 percent more than white women, allowing many white wives to focus more effort on their kids. The typical white man in his 30s works about nine hours more per week than the typical white woman. In contrast, the median black woman earns 12 percent more than the median black man, and works two hours more per week.
|Hours of Work Per Week|
|Male||Female||M / F|
|W / B||151%||105%|
The racial gaps are much bigger when measured upon household income because only 16 percent of black women are married in their 30s versus 58 percent of white women. The median white woman’s household income is almost 2.5 times that of the median black woman’s household income.
Chetty sounds astonished by how seldom blacks marry:
White children at the bottom of the income distribution are as likely to be married as black children at the 97th percentile of the parental income distribution.
Of course, one reason that blacks marry so seldom is because black men tend not to be good providers. And a sizable reason for the unsuitability of black men as husbands is, as Chetty writes:
Notably, 10.3% of black men in our sample of children were incarcerated on April 1, 2010 (between ages 27–32), a far higher rate than for any of the other subgroups.
Much of the antiwhite racist hate speech that has become such a noteworthy feature of mainstream media discourse in recent years is generated by educated black women angry at the black men in their lives for acting like lazy knuckleheads. But they can’t say that, so they rechannel their rage into politically correct defamation of whites. The only way the Democrats’ coalition of the fringes can possibly hold together is if they all hate straight white men instead of each other.
Chetty also has IRS returns from 1994 to 2000 for his subjects’ parents. Relative to their parents’ income, black women do okay compared with white women, but not black men compared with white men:
…the black-white intergenerational gap in individual incomes is driven almost entirely by men. We find gaps for men of about 11 percentiles across the parental income distribution. In contrast, black women have 1 percentile higher individual income ranks than white women conditional on parental income.
Note that Chetty isn’t saying that black women make more money than white women. They don’t. They start out poorer and they stay poorer. But black men do much worse than white men who grew up at the same income level.
My theory since the last century has been that blacks skew more macho than whites, which can help black women make money. But black men tend to be too masculine for their own good. And American culture overly encourages black male machismo.
Chetty started his data accumulation project over a decade ago to find the best places to raise the next generation and learn their local lessons so they can be applied nationwide.
Atlanta, as I’ve often mentioned, appears better for blacks than Chicago:
Among white men with parents at the 25th percentile of the national income distribution, those who grew up in Atlanta have a mean rank of 46.6, significantly lower than those who grew up in Chicago, who have a mean rank of 52.6. In contrast, black men who grew up in Atlanta have a mean rank of 37.7, higher than the mean rank of 36.8 of low-income black men who grew up in Chicago.
For black male youths, he recommends that their parents move them to neighborhoods where there are few poor people and most of the other black boys live with their fathers. (In Chetty’s view, it’s not that important if your son grows up with his father, but it’s important that the other black boys in the neighborhood grow up with their fathers, presumably so they don’t ensnare your son in their gang and start him on a life of crime. How that would scale, I don’t know.)
Black boys do especially well in low-poverty neighborhoods with a large fraction of fathers at home in black families and low levels of racial bias among whites. However, very few black boys grow up in such areas. 4.2 percent of black children currently grow up in Census tracts with a poverty rate below 10 percent and more than half of black fathers present. In contrast, 62.5 percent of white children grow up in low-poverty areas with more than half of white fathers present.
He’s found two promising neighborhoods:
For example, black men have the highest rates of upward mobility in Silver Spring in the Washington DC Metro Area as well as parts of Queens in New York. In these areas, black men growing up in low-income (p = 25) families have mean income ranks in adulthood above the 50th percentile.
Silver Spring, Md., is just over the border from Washington, D.C. It’s 28 percent black, and tends to be populated by federal bureaucrats. I realize that it’s fun to bash on Washington workers, but they tend to be decent neighbors: smart, stable, and not going anywhere. Also, Silver Spring has lots of African immigrants: It was 5.2 percent Ethiopian in 2010.
Queens is the center of NYC’s middle-class black immigrant population. Eddie Murphy’s 1988 movie Coming to America is about an African prince who picks Queens from a map as the place to find his queen (and is satisfied with the outcome).
In other words, there’s something very wrong with African-American culture that other black countries seem to do a better job of avoiding despite being much poorer.
Strikingly, Chetty reports that white boys benefit more than black boys from growing up in good neighborhoods (and, conversely, are presumably hurt worse by growing up in bad neighborhoods):
Intuitively, both black and white boys have higher incomes in low-poverty areas, but the effect of growing up in a low-poverty area is larger for whites than blacks.
Why? Perhaps it’s just that there are more high-potential whites than blacks. Basically, blacks benefit from good (i.e., not very black) neighborhoods by being more likely to stay out of jail, but whites benefit more because they have higher capabilities on average.
Hence, where policy pushes blacks to live will always be a political hot potato. For example, the Biden administration is reviving Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing scheme to help cities unload their blacks on the suburbs and small towns.
Chetty has grudgingly come around to accepting my 2013 criticism that his celebrated maps of upward mobility are mostly maps of where the blacks and American Indians aren’t.
Chetty has the tax returns of 21 million thirtysomething Americans from 2014 to 2015 and the 1040s of their individual parents in 1994–2000. He sees no evidence that the newer generation of blacks and Native Americans is closing the gap with whites. He wrote in 2019:
…blacks and whites are in a steady-state in which the black-white income gap is due almost entirely to differences in rates of intergenerational mobility rather than transitory or historical factors…. Rates of intergenerational mobility for American Indians are very similar to those for blacks.
One interesting question that Chetty has the data to answer but hasn’t yet chosen to do so is how much of the disappointing economic performance of blacks over the sixty years of the civil rights era has been due to dyscultural or dysgenic fertility creating headwinds for the black race as a whole. W.E.B. Du Bois complained about how much larger were the families of poor blacks than of his own “talented tenth.”
This fertility pattern remained true into the late 20th century, which meant that the bottom 50 percent of blacks conceived and nurtured a larger fraction of the next generation than did the top half. You don’t have to have an opinion on nature or nurture to see that would be a problem.
However, in this century, the fertility rate of poor black women has dropped sharply and generation times have lengthened as fewer black teens give birth, so it could be that this problem is ameliorating.
Chetty is much more optimistic about Latinos:
Hence, unlike blacks and American Indians, Hispanics are on an upward trajectory across generations and may close most of the gap between their incomes and those of whites…. Their low levels of income at present thus appear to be primarily due to transitory factors.
Unfortunately, I suspect some of that is due to Chetty’s methodological weakness of not adjusting his income figures for the wide variations in cost of living around the country. Hispanic immigrants tend to head for places with high and rising rents, such as Los Angeles County, home to 4 million Latinos.
And it’s not as if Latinos have driven Los Angeles’ big wealth generators, such as the entertainment industry and, earlier, aerospace. Places that have had large numbers of Hispanics for many generations, such as the Rio Grande Valley and New Mexico, are not economically dynamic.
But we shall see.
Chetty goes out of his way to not sound too optimistic about Asians. You don’t have to worry about the menace of Asian economic supremacy, the Indian-born Chetty argues, because the next generation of Asian-American kids is sure to recede to lackadaisical white levels of achievement:
Asian children whose mothers were born in the U.S. have outcomes very similar to white children, while those whose mothers were born outside the U.S. have much better outcomes than white children. Hence, the exceptional outcomes of Asian children are unique to the children of first-generation immigrants rather than a persistent feature of Asians who are U.S. natives. For this reason, Asian children of U.S. natives have a predicted steady state income level that is similar to whites.
Well, maybe… But note that his database focuses on people born in 1978–1983. So, all his Asian kids with American-born Asian mothers were from pre-1965 Asian immigrant waves, which tended to be much more blue-collar—Chinese railroad coolies, Japanese farmers, Filipino field hands, and Sikh farmers—than the more recent waves with all their STEM students.
As James Flynn, discover of the Flynn Effect, noted, between 1960 and 1975 Chinese- and Japanese-ancestry schoolchildren in America scored slightly below the white mean on IQ tests. But since then, legal immigrants from Asia have been skewed strongly toward grad students and the like.
Will their kids regress toward the white mean as Chetty predicts?
American-born Yale law professor Amy Chua, daughter of a famous chip designer, retorted in her best-seller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: over her dead body.