25 February 2016

Urban schools and family breakdown blamed for racial inequality


In an article for today’s Times (£) I note the persistence of some of the disadvantages that African Americans face:

“The unemployment rate for black Americans has been twice as high as the white rate for five decades. Over that same period the income gap between blacks and whites hasn’t narrowed and the wealth gap has even started to widen. As a percentage of the population, six times as many black Americans are in prison as white Americans.”

You can access the data behind at these facts at the Washington Post.

I asked YouGov’s First Verdict panel for their explanation of why they thought these inequalities exist. Able to choose from eight options, only 29% blamed racism from White America and only 23% blamed “the historical weight of slavery and other injustices”. 49% blamed the economic system but the top answers were the high level of family breakdown in black communities (cited by 64% of respondents) and poor quality schools (66%).

You can see the full results in the chart below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 19.55.05

In my piece for The Times I noted that President Obama has backed charter schools, performance-related pay and strict national testing regimes. This has upset teacher unions and many traditional black community leaders but has won the support of some Republican politicians, including New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie.

In answer to another question only 4% thought the first African American president had pursued policies that had especially favoured other African Americans. 8% thought his policies had been especially bad for them. Most thought his policies had affected all communities equally: 45% for the good and 37% for the bad.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 20.17.05

The exact question we asked for the main chart was “The average African American is more likely to underperform at school, suffer unemployment or end up in prison. Which of the following factors are IMPORTANT in explaining this?” Panellists could check as many as they thought applied.

For more about Portrait of America and the methodology behind First Verdict, click here.

For the complete Portrait of America catalog, click here.

Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America