People have different experiences and outcomes based on their racial identities. Interestingly enough, many Americans know and even acknowledge these divides. And even though we may be making strides in some small areas, large inequalities persist. Let’s look at a few.
Health disparities are large, persistent, and even increasing in the United States. Differences across socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups range up to 10 or more years in life expectancy and 20 or more years in the age at which significant functional health limitations are first experienced.
Individuals with the most advantaged socioeconomic and racial/ethnic status experience longer, healthier lives. Thus, the significant opportunity for improving the health of human populations lies in enhancing the longevity and health of those living below-average socioeconomic or racial/ethnic status.
Wealth is the measure of an individual’s or family’s financial net worth—it provides various opportunities for American families. Wealth makes it possible for people to seamlessly transition between jobs, move to new neighborhoods, or respond in emergencies.
One major factor in determining wealth is often education. Public education has often been underfunded in black-majority schools, limiting skill acquisition and upward mobility. Even more, a report released by the Center for American Progress found blacks have less wealth than whites even with increased education levels.
Another factor in the racial wealth divide is employment discrimination. Discrimination in hiring is real and making it more difficult for blacks to escape from poverty or build sustainable wealth. In society, less wealth translates into fewer opportunities for upward progress.
A report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found the difference in happiness levels between whites and blacks is substantial. There are several reasons to observe racial inequalities in happiness. For starters, blacks and whites differ in various socioeconomic characteristics associated with joy, including income, education, labor force status, and family living arrangements.
The NCBI study showed whites are considerably more likely to report they are “very happy” (35 percent) than blacks (24 percent). Furthermore, whites are half as likely to say they are “not too happy” (10 percent) than blacks (20 percent). Yet, the “happiness gap” has declined over time. Another study found “African-American people who identify more strongly with their racial identity are generally happier.” Nonetheless, the two most important characteristics associated with happiness are income and marital status- and both are strongly associated with race.
The decline in the racial happiness gap is consistent with the moderate narrowing of significant racial disparities in other areas: life expectancy, living situation, and neighborhood conditions, suggesting small steps toward equality. However, high levels of inequality persist in many different areas.
We share with you this data because we are all learning and growing together to close the many socioeconomic and racial gaps.