Gaps of the Day: Median household income


What about the money? Unemployment and labor force participation are important economic conditions, but the rubber meets the road when work becomes income. If many people are employed, but most aren’t paid much, that’s still not good.

Here, then, are the 2012 median household incomes for white, black, and Hispanic households in selected states.

(Data from American Community Survey)

There are a few familiar points here that call back to our test score gaps. First off, DC posts the highest black-white income gap (presumably this would be true for the Hispanic-white gap, but that data wasn’t included). That gap is largely because of very high white income, especially since DC’s median black income is actually a few thousand dollars higher than the US median. Connecticut, another regular high-gap state for test scores, also posts very large income gaps.

As for Minnesota, we have the third largest black-white income gap in the country and the tenth largest Hispanic-white income gap. Relative to the country, Minnesota’s white households are doing more than $6,000 better than the national median for whites, while our black households are about $4,500 below the national median for blacks. Our Hispanic households are about $1,300 better than the national median for Hispanics. Of course, a necessary qualifier is that the cost of living varies from state to state, and so the same amount of money can buy more in Mississippi than California.

Again, we see that equity is a combination of absolute and relative measurement. Maryland has the ninth largest black-white income gap, but its median black household has an income roughly the same as the median white income in the country.

The equity gaps we’re observing do not exist in isolation. Higher income does tend to predict higher academic performance. Higher academic performance, in turn, tends to predict higher income. Reducing intergenerational equity gaps means addressing multiple gaps at once right now.