One of the underdiscussed phenomena of the contemporary U.S. (because it doesn’t flatter the prejudices of either political party) is that black women’s economic and educational outcomes have improved more-or-less continuously since the Civil Rights movement. They have higher labor force participation than white women, and similar employment rates , have higher weekly wages in inflation adjusted dollars than white men did in 1997 ( table 16), hardly a dark time in the American economy, and enroll in college at much higher rates than white men . They have much higher returns to ability than do white men or white women ( see table 3). Black women earn 15% more than white women if you condition on 8th grade test scores .
Black teenage pregnancy rates, while still relatively higher, are now lower than white teenage pregnancy rates were in the 90s — again not a time that many people were tearing their hair out about the outcomes for white people. The incarceration rate for black women has declined by roughly 30% since 2000 ( p. 2 ) .
Some of these trends are related to the decline in black men’s earnings since the 80s and the dramatic increase in black male incarceration(since relatively few black households have two earners, women are required to earn more).
The picture, in fact, looks completely different if you don’t disaggregate by gender. So this is the Census’s numbers in 2014 dollars for Black household income:
Essentially flat from 1973 through 1990, a dramatic increase in the 90s, and then decline since the late 90s.
However, the CPS excludes incarcerated men, who dramatically increased in number during this same period . For example, among high school dropouts, almost a third of black men ages 20–40 were incarcerated in 2008, and by their early 30s, and the lifetime risk of imprisonment of black male high school dropouts was over 60 percent.
The employment-population ratio dropped significantly for black men during this period, much more than for white men, despite their being many more white retirees– and the EPR excludes currently incarcerated men as well. 24 percent of black children will have their father incarcerated by age 14.
Glenn Loury shows many of the trends by gender here (and shows that you had a steady increase in black women’s earnings, with black men’s earnings making no progress at all, and boys’ outcomes falling behind girls’ at early stages.