The Washington Post reported a few days ago on a new poll of Washington, DC residents which found that “[m]ost District residents–black and white–see socioeconomic class, not race, as the primary source of a stark divide in the city.” The poll further found that, in some ways, “higher-income African Americans have more in common with similarly wealthy whites than with lower-income blacks.”
But the report also notes some significant caveats to the broad similarities between upper income (over $100,000) blacks and whites: Blacks in this group “express significantly more sour views of the District’s economy than do whites.” Further:
Higher income African Americans also are less secure than whites about their own financial well-being, more apprehensive about the spreading effects of gentrification and somewhat more critical of the state of race relations in the District.
In short, the poll shows that African Americans’ “perspectives remain shaped by decades of economic difficulty and a sense that many blacks, including some in their own families, are still struggling.”
Thus the poll confirms a few phenomena about which I’ve been studying and writing of late:
- More affluent blacks are less judgmental of poor blacks than affluent whites are of poor whites. This is presumably because blacks are more likely to have meaningful relationships with and more frequent exposure to the economically disadvantaged within their race. In short, blacks are less likely to buy into the “personal responsibility” basis for blaming other blacks for their economic situation. This is surely in part because affluent blacks are more likely to have recently transcended class barriers, and they thus understand the force of structural barriers to success.
- Affluent blacks feel more economically vulnerable than affluent whites, in part because they have typically enjoyed less opportunity/a shorter period of time in which to accumulate wealth.
- Affluence diminishes barriers among racial and ethnic groups, as people of races and ethnicities tend to become more like one another culturally as they ascend the socioeconomic ladder.
The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted the poll of 1,342 District of Columbia residents.