Kai Wright at Colorlines discusses an “arresting” graph demonstrating downward class mobility among black and whites.  The bars represent the proportion of parents’ children that end up in the bottom fifth of income earners by race and income of the parent.  On the far left, you see that 31% of whites and 54% of blacks born into the bottom fifth remain the bottom fifth.  Poor black children, then, are more likely than poor white children to stay poor.

The remainder of the bars represent downward mobility.  You can see that, in every case, black children are more likely to be poor as adults than white children, no matter what class they were born into.  Among those born into the middle fifth, the statistically middle class, 16% of whites and 45% of blacks end up in the bottom fifth of income earners.  For the richest white Americans, the chance of ending up poor is statistically zero; while nearly one in ten of black children born rich will end up poor.

Wright summarizes:

…economic mobility is not the same for everybody in America, and to the degree we can talk about a genuine black middle class, it’s not a terribly secure one.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Cross-posted at Ms. and Family Inequality.

In the early 1990s, Arline Geronimus proposed a simple yet profound explanation for why Black women on average were having children at younger ages than White women, which she called the “weathering hypothesis.”

It goes like this: Racial inequality takes a cumulative toll on Black women, increasing the chance they will have health problems at younger ages. So, early childbearing might pose health risks for White women, but for Black women it makes more sense to start earlier — before their health declines. Although it’s hard to measure the motivations of people having children, her suggestion was that early childbearing reflected a combination of cumulative cultural wisdom and individual adaptation (for example, reacting to the health problems experienced by their 40-something mothers).

She showed the pattern nicely with data from Michigan in 1989, in which the percentage of first births that were “very low birthweight,” increased with the age of Black women, but decreased for White women, through their twenties:

Source: My graph from Geronimus (1996).

If the hypothesis is correct, she reasoned, the pattern would be stronger among poor women, who experience more health problems, which is also what she found.

The most recent national data, for 2007, continue to show Black women have their first children, on average, younger than White women: age 22.7 versus 26.0. And the infant mortality rates, by mothers’ age, also show the lowest risk for White women at older ages than for Black women:

Source: My graph from CDC data.

Note that, for White women, mothers have children in the early thirties face less than half the infant-mortality risk of those having children as teenagers. For Black women, waiting till their lowest-risk age — the late 20s — yields only a 14% reduction in infant mortality risk. So it looks like waiting is much more important for White women, at least as far as health conditions are concerned.

The implications are profound. If you base your perceptions on the White pattern, it makes sense to discourage early childbearing for health reasons. But if you look at the Black pattern, it becomes more important to try to improve health problems at early ages — and all the things that contribute to them — rather than (or in addition to) trying to delay first births.


Cohen’s previous posts featured on SocImages include ones on the recession and divorce datathe relationship between cell phone use and driving deathsmeasuring the number of welfare recipients, delusions of gender dimorphism, and the gender binary in children’s books.

Last month, Lisa posted a video of Jennifer Lee discussing the U.S. racial ideology with Dalton Conley. Jennifer (who teaches sociology at the University of California-Irvine) emailed us to let us know there’s now a second video, in which she discusses the difference between race and ethnicity, as well as how racial ideologies are socially constructed:

Peter Nardi, of Pitzer College, sent in an image that illustrates the social construction of race. He visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, and took a photo of a plaque on the wall that reprinted information published in the Johannesburg-based newspaper The Star on March 21, 1986. The article reported on changes in the official racial classification of over 1,000 South Africans in 1985:

Because race is socially constructed, racial classifications change as underlying racial ideologies shift, sometimes opening up opportunities (for instance, allowing groups to be classified as a less stigmatized race) but also often reinforcing racial stratification (such as when the U.S. made the “one-drop” rule, by which you were African American if you had even one Black ancestor, official policy, preventing mixed-race individuals from avoiding the stigma of being Black).

And I’m visiting my family until the 28th, so I will have very sporadic internet access. I’ve scheduled posts for the whole week, but I won’t be able to update/correct/respond much, so I apologize in advance. On the upside, my trips home often provide material for at least one post, so yay!

Abbotsford, Wisconsin’s Mark Prior posted a sign reading “NO NEGRO’S ALLOWED” sign [sic] at the entrance to his strip club.  From the story at NBC (via Racialicious):

“Our mistake is sometimes we look for logic in something that is just plain stupid,” says Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, an African American historian at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Meanwhile, in Hayden, Idaho, Mark Eliseuson celebrated the first snow with a KKK snowman, complete with noose.  According to KTLA News, Eliseuson took down the snowman after being told that he could be charged with a “nuisance”:

(Thanks to Dmitriy T.M. for the tip off.)

See also our post on race-themed parties at colleges and universities and our post on The Compton Cookout.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Back in September, I posted about some maps put together by Eric Fischer, using 2000 Census data, showing the racial/ethnic makeup of selected cities. As Jeff H., Eluned J., and Dmitriy T.M. pointed out, the NYT now has up an interactive map where you can see the racial/ethnic composition of any Census tract, using more updated Census Bureau data from 2005 to 2009. For instance, here’s a map of the neighboring cities of Midland and Odessa, Texas, which I picked for no reason other than that I just watched an episode of Friday Night Lights, which is set in a fictionalized version:

Color key:

You can zoom in to get quite detailed information about individual neighborhoods. I zoomed in as far as I could on Miami (each dot now represents 50 people):

There’s also a tab that says “View More Maps.” It allows you to select to see just the distribution of Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or the foreign-born population. Here’s the map of the Hispanic population of Las Vegas:

As you can see, if you hover over a Census tract, you can get specific data on its racial/ethnic makeup.

The foreign-born population of Seattle (if you hover over a tract, it will tell you the % foreign-born, as well as the % increase in the foreign-born population since 2000):

A great resource. Although I tried to look up my home town, and even zooming in to the smallest scale, it’s too small to have any data available.

Jordan B. sent in an interesting observation about the current advertising at Diesel.  Many of the ads feature varying skin tones, but the darker-skinned models appear to always be male, while the women appear to always be lighter-skinned.  Two ads:

Three images from the website:

Jordan thinks that Diesel is following American cultural rules that gender race and racialize gender.  For example, if I may quote myself:

According to American cultural stereotypes, black people, both men and women, are more masculine than white people. Black men are seen as, somehow, more masculine than white men: they are, stereotypically, more aggressive, more violent, larger, more sexual, and more athletic. Black women, too, as seen as more masculine than white women: they are louder, bossier, more opinionated and, like men, more sexual and more athletic.

I’ll let Jordan finish the thought:

This is why Diesel’s selection of a black man and light skinned women makes sense for their ads.  By choosing a black man, men everywhere will want to identify with the hyper-masculinity our society has attributed to them. Similarly, by choosing a light-skinned woman, Diesel is selecting the type of women our society has put on a pedestal.

For more, see our posts on asymmetry in interracial marriagehow Asian women are marketed to white men, and data on race and response rates on a dating website.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The NYT has posted an interesting interactive map showing the results of the last slave Census taken in the U.S., in 1860, which I discovered via Jessica Brown and Jim Yocom. The map, which shows county-level data, illustrates how slave ownership varied throughout the South

The shading (a new technique at the time, according to the NYT article) indicates what percent of the entire county’s population was enslaved:

You can see the percentage for each county, which is listed on the map, more easily if you zoom in on the pdf version. The cotton-belt area along the Mississippi River clearly stands out, as does Beaufort County, South Carolina, all with over 80% of the population enslaved. The highest rate I could pick out (the map got a little blurry as I zoomed) is in Issaquena County, Mississippi, where slaves appear to have made up 92.5% of the population.

The map also included information on the overall population and % enslaved at the state level; in South Carolina and Mississippi, over half of the total state population was made up of slaves:

Also check out Lisa’s post on geology, the economy, and the concentration of slavery in the U.S.

As the NYT post points out, the map doesn’t show the dramatic increases in slavery in some areas. For instance, while Texas ranked fairly low in terms of the overall slave population, the number of slaves in the state had tripled between 1850 and 1860. The number had doubled in Mississippi between 1840 and 1860. Those growth rates make it rather hard to swallow the argument sometimes presented by those romanticizing the Confederacy that slavery was actually on the wane and would have soon been ended in the South anyway, without any need for federal interference, and wasn’t why the South seceded at all.

Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore discussed this effort to frame discourses about the Civil War to erase the issue of slavery on The Daily Show:

Allegra K. suggested that we take a look at Palin-based pro-conservative message from PalinPAC for this past November’s election. The nearly-two-minute commercial is an excellent example of a gender-specific populism. We recently discussed populism in response to Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m Not a Witch, I’m You” commercial.  Populism is, by definition, in opposition to elitism.  Political populists believe that the average person is better suited to lead than the exceptional person.  In this ad, Palin attempts to personify not just the average person, but the average mom.  Allegra writes:

Throughout the video, numerous women are pictured. However, they are a specific type: they are the “real” women; not models, or especially good-looking, dressed up, or even business or political figures. They are “average moms”…

The average woman, according to Palin, is the American hockey mom (just like her), who is (supposedly) middle class, an at-home mom, who cooks and cleans, takes her multiple children to school, and then to after school sports, probably drives a mini van, and uses Clorox on her sons’ jerseys after they get muddy at practice.  Palin puts the power of change in their hands because, she says, “moms just kinda know when somethin’s wrong.”

A “just kinda know” kind of knowledge (based on the notion of female intuition) is a great example of Palin’s gendered populist message.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.