U.Va. Study Finds Enduring Differences in the Economic Chances of Blacks and Whites

Gaps persist in educational attainment and income between blacks and whites in Virginia, according to a report released today by the Demographics & Workforce Group of the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

The report, "Blacks in Virginia," analyzes 2010 American Community Survey and historical census data to focus on Virginia's largest minority group. It finds:

• Despite a steady decline since the late 1960s, rates of residential racial segregation in Virginia's large metropolitan areas remain moderately high, with little change in the last two decades. In 2010, residential segregation was highest in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, with a segregation measure of 62, above the average for the 100 largest metropolitan areas nationally, which is 55. The Richmond metro area had a segregation measure right around the national average of 52.
• Despite significant increases in the proportion of black Virginians with college degrees, which now stands at 20 percent, the comparable figure for white Virginians was nearly twice as large, at 37 percent.
• Black Virginians with levels of educational attainment and number of hours worked identical to whites have median incomes significantly below those of white Virginians. The median income of black Virginians with bachelor's degrees working full-time is $50,000 – 17 percent less than their white counterparts.

"Black Virginians have made enormous strides in educational achievement, but so have white Virginians, and at a slightly faster rate," the report's author, researcher Michele Claibourn, said. "So, for example, the gap in the percent of blacks and whites earning a college degree has actually grown over time, even though black college-degree attainment is at an all-time high."

Blacks at all levels of educational attainment have lower median incomes than whites with the same level of education, she said. While income gaps between black and white women shrink as their level of education increases, the difference between median incomes of black and white men grows with higher levels of education.

"As blacks constitute nearly 20 percent of Virginia's population, their economic outcomes have an impact on their families and communities, and on the state as a whole," said Qian Cai, director of the Demographics & Workforce Group.

The report also explores geographic trends, tracing the current geographic distribution of blacks across the state to distributions established in Virginia's pre-Civil War history and examining patterns in residential segregation in Virginia's metropolitan regions over time.

The report is in the latest edition of Numbers Count, a data-driven publication produced by the Demographics & Workforce Group that analyzes Virginia demographics and discusses topics of current interest.