chapter  1
16 Pages

The Black Middle-Class

Progress, Prospects, and Puzzles
ByPaul Attewell, David Lavin, Thurston Domina, Tania Levey

This chapter analyses the statistical and demographic data on the African American population, drawn from the Census Bureau's Current Population Surveys (CPS) for 1998-2002 and the US Census for 2000. Immigrants and their offspring constitute a disproportionately large and successful segment of the black middle-class. Increased black educational attainment, occupational mobility, and movement up the income ladder—these are the major factors underlying the expansion of the black middle-class. African Americans continue to earn less than white workers, even when one considers only year-round full-time workers with equal amounts of education. The chapter considers marriageability from an earnings perspective, to see whether, among working adults, income is associated with the rate of cohabitation. The legal marriage rate in the African American community has been declining over time, even as the black middle-class has grown. Conversely, if marriage or cohabitation rates were to rise, the growth of black families with middle-class incomes would accelerate.