Search

Class, Wealth, & Social Mobility

Class, Wealth, & Social Mobility

Class, Wealth, & Social Mobility

The researchers of the Cook Center are documenting the magnitude of racial and ethnic disparities in wealth in the United States, particularly in the aftermath the Great Recession.

The 2018 report from the Center, What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap, outlines many of these present disparities: Black Americans, who constitute roughly thirteen percent of the country, possess less than three percent of the nation’s wealth. While the median white household living at the poverty line has $18,000 in wealth, the corresponding black household typically has nothing. Conversely, white households account for a whopping ninety-six percent of the nation’s wealthiest; black households make up just two percent of this elite club. These persistent disparities, along with many others the Cook Center has uncovered in recent years, provide an impetus and justification for the continued efforts of the Center’s researchers in combating these inequities.

Among other goals, they work to:
  • Identify sources of unequal wealth accumulation across populations, using data from sources such as the Panel Study of Income Dynamics;
  • Resolve whether differences in net worth are due primarily to differences in behavior (savings and portfolio management), differences in income, or differences in patterns of inheritance;
  • Establish the most effective means of addressing intergroup inequality in wealth;
  • And assess and compare the effectiveness of financial literacy programs, individual development accounts, child trust accounts, and community wide asset-building initiatives.

Working Group

The Social Mobility Working Group seeks to identify mechanisms that are driving (or slowing) social mobility and to track their connections with levels of well-being, state types, national policies, structural inequalities, and other societal features (including networks, norms, and practices).

Objectives
  • Develop a network of scholars across disciplines, bringing different perspectives to the study of social mobility
  • Jointly review existing studies from different parts of the world and diverse methodologies and disciplinary approaches
  • Identify important gaps and potential opportunities for pushing this research frontier
  • Work toward the formation of collaborative research groups, as well as design and undertake research projects in different parts of the world

The Cook Center aims to design effective procedures for preventing or mitigating the effects of employment discrimination.

The longstanding racial inequities of American society are reflected in the job market: For decades, the unemployment rate for black Americans has long hovered at twice that of whites, and at every level of educational attainment, blacks are more likely than whites to be unemployed. More extreme examples—like the fact that black men with no criminal records face lower odds of a callback for a job than do white men with a criminal record—only heighten one’s understanding of the disparities in play.

But for myriad reasons, discrimination in employment proves difficult to accurately measure. Self-reports of discrimination are subject to respondent self-censorship, cognitive dissonance or error; systematic comparisons have shown blacks to substantially underreport their exposure to discrimination in employment while whites substantially overreport. Furthermore, group distinctions based exclusively on self-reports of race or ethnicity complicate these calculations. For example, Latinos, regardless of skin shade, report their race as white at high rates and rarely report their race as black, which leads to inaccurate estimates of the magnitude of discrimination. Therefore, data sets that enable researchers to make distinctions based upon skin shade will prove more useful in locating evidence of discrimination than data sets reliant solely on self-reported race.

The Cook Center researchers will aim to first understand how historical methods—the self-report, statistical decomposition, and field experiment—perform at a common set of geographical locations, in order to assess the consistency of measurement of discrimination generated by each. From there, these researchers will develop a context-specific protocol for detection of discrimination in employment. Additionally, they will design a way to measure the magnitude of discrimination directed against people with multiple stigmatized identities—in short, determining whether possessing multiple identities has an adverse effect on earnings and employment outcomes.


Employment

The Cook Center aims to design effective procedures for preventing or mitigating the effects of employment discrimination.

The longstanding racial inequities of American society are reflected in the job market: For decades, the unemployment rate for black Americans has long hovered at twice that of whites, and at every level of educational attainment, blacks are more likely than whites to be unemployed. More extreme examples—like the fact that black men with no criminal records face lower odds of a callback for a job than do white men with a criminal record—only heighten one’s understanding of the disparities in play.

But for myriad reasons, discrimination in employment proves difficult to accurately measure. Self-reports of discrimination are subject to respondent self-censorship, cognitive dissonance or error; systematic comparisons have shown blacks to substantially underreport their exposure to discrimination in employment while whites substantially overreport. Furthermore, group distinctions based exclusively on self-reports of race or ethnicity complicate these calculations. For example, Latinos, regardless of skin shade, report their race as white at high rates and rarely report their race as black, which leads to inaccurate estimates of the magnitude of discrimination. Therefore, data sets that enable researchers to make distinctions based upon skin shade will prove more useful in locating evidence of discrimination than data sets reliant solely on self-reported race.

The Cook Center researchers will aim to first understand how historical methods—the self-report, statistical decomposition, and field experiment—perform at a common set of geographical locations, in order to assess the consistency of measurement of discrimination generated by each. From there, these researchers will develop a context-specific protocol for detection of discrimination in employment. Additionally, they will design a way to measure the magnitude of discrimination directed against people with multiple stigmatized identities—in short, determining whether possessing multiple identities has an adverse effect on earnings and employment outcomes.

Team Members

Research & Publications

Aftermath of the Greenwood community following the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. PHOTO: BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Racial Disparities in Family Income, Assets, and Liabilities: A Century After the 1921 Tulsa Massacre

Title: Racial Disparities in Family Income, Assets, and Liabilities: A Century After the 1921 Tulsa…

The Hidden Rules of Race front page book cover

The Hidden Rules of Race

The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy Overview Why do black families…

downtown area of a city looking downhill with a body of water and bridge in the background

Reframing the Asian American Wealth Narrative: An Examination of the Racial Wealth Gap in the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color Survey

Abstract The National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey was developed to supplement…

a group of students in uniforms talking with one another on a bus

Caste Discrimination in Contemporary India

Ch. 8 in Inequality and Growth: Patterns and Policy Abstract To what extent do social…

cartoon depiction of cars unevenly lined in separate lanes facing a finish line that reads "economic prosperity"

Stratification Economics: A Primer and an Explanation on Opposition to Affirmative Action

Abstract In this chapter, stratification economics provides a vehicle for analyzing attitudes toward affirmative action….

The Black Reparations Project

The Black Reparations Project

The Black Reparations Project: A Handbook for Racial Justice Overview This groundbreaking resource moves us…

Understanding the Effects of Windfalls: What People Do with Financial Payouts, and What It Means for Policy

What happens when individuals receive infusions of money-large or small? This report by Cook Center…

professional headshot of Ashleigh Rosette

Are Leaders Still Presumed White by Default? Racial Bias in Leader Categorization Revisited

About the report In the United States, leaders of the highest valued companies, best-ranked universities,…