The Racial Structure of Economic Inequality in the United States: Understanding Change and Continuity in an Era of “Great Divergence”*

Rodney Hero, Morris E. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

The “great divergence” of America's rich from its middle class and poor has led some observers to see a country increasingly stratified by income and wealth, more so than by race. In this article, the first in a two-part series, we argue that this conclusion overlooks the persistent importance of the racial “structure” of inequality. A decomposition of income inequality between 1980 and 2010 using the Theil Index shows that inequality between racial groups accounts for a rising share of total income inequality over this period nationally and in most states. We also demonstrate that within-state trends in the between-race component of inequality are not fully accounted for by trends in income inequality and racial diversity per se. These findings lay the groundwork for a forthcoming companion piece in Social Science Quarterly that shows that between-race inequality is strongly linked to welfare policy outcomes in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-505
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Volume97
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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