by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
There is a lot to unpack in the new National Bureau of Economic Research article, “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective.”
In their hefty working paper, Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie Jones, and Sonya Porter examine data for nearly the entire U.S. population from 1989 to 2015. The report outlined their three major findings:
Our findings suggest that many widely discussed proposals may be insufficient to narrow the black-white gap in the long run. Policies focused on improving the economic outcomes of a single generation (such as cash transfer programs or minimum wage increases) can narrow the gap at a given point in time, but are less likely to have persistent effects unless they also affect intergenerational mobility. Policies that reduce residential segregation or enable black and white children to attend the same schools without achieving racial integration within neighborhoods and schools would also likely leave much of the gap in place, since the gap persists even among low-income children raised on the same block.
Chetty and his coauthors propose a close examination of mentoring programs for black boys and assessments of programs that cultivate productive interactions between racial groups within neighborhoods. Given their findings, however, it’s clear that the authors are not sure how policymakers should tackle the problem.
Perhaps trying new things is a good place to start.