Issues of Black-white inequality and racial injustice have taken center stage over the past year to a degree not seen for a generation. These issues cover a wide range of topics, touching on policing and criminal justice, labor market discrimination, gaps in educational opportunity, social capital inequalities, and the racial wealth gap.

Understanding the ways in which these inequalities have been reproduced across generations is an important first step in creating a more equitable society where upward social mobility and economic opportunities are accessible to all. In our new paper, “Long Shadows: The Black-White Gap in Multigenerational Poverty,” we take a multigenerational perspective on economic inequality by race, showing the persistence of unequal economic opportunity for Black Americans across time. Recent work has highlighted stark disparities in social mobility across two generations for Black and white Americans, but we know relatively little about Black-white gaps in the experience of multigenerational mobility and poverty across more than two generations.

We estimate the Black-white gap in multigenerational poverty across three generations using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), which began tracking families in 1968. The PSID allows us to link the incomes of adults today in their 30s with the incomes of their parents and—dating back to the Civil Rights Era—their grandparents. For each generation, we define “poverty” as being in the bottom quintile of the income distribution. Our headline finding is that three-generation poverty is over 16 times higher among Black adults than white adults (21.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively). In other words, one in five Black Americans are experiencing poverty for the third generation in a row, compared to just one in a hundred white Americans.

Read the full article about the Black-white gap in multigenerational poverty by Scott Winship, Christopher Pulliam, Ariel Gelrud Shiro, Richard V. Reeves, and Santiago Deambrosi at Brookings.