Economics, Top 10 of 2018, Top Stories

Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap

There is arguably no racial disparity more striking than the wealth gap. While the median white household earns just 65 percent more income than its black counterpart, its net worth is fully ten times as high. And, unlike income, which individuals earn in their own lifetimes, wealth accrues over generations, and whites are more than three times as likely as blacks to inherit money from their families. In the public debate on racial inequality, the wealth gap is among the sharpest arrows in the progressive quiver. When conservative commentators argue that America is a meritocracy, or that blacks lag due to cultural factors, progressives can retaliate with a single statistic that seems to prove the reality of white privilege beyond the possibility of doubt.

But statistics don’t interpret themselves, and the wealth gap is no exception. A recent wave of scholarship—including Mehrsa Baradaran’s The Color of Money, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations”—has converged on the interpretation that the wealth gap is caused by two factors: slavery and racist New Deal policies.

In his Atlantic essay, Coates argues that slavery is central to explaining American affluence. “Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves,” he writes, “and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected.” The wealth gap, therefore, “puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten.”

But slavery is hardly the root cause of America’s prosperity. If it were, then we would expect American states that practiced slavery to be richer than those that did not. Yet we see precisely the opposite. The South, where slavery thrived, was “the poorest and most backward region of the country,” according to the economist Thomas Sowell.1 This remains true today. A recent analysis of census data found that Northeastern states, which forbade slavery, “are among the wealthiest,” whereas “states in the Southeast are among the poorest.” Nor is the disconnect between slavery and wealth unique to America. Similar disparities have emerged in Brazil, where the formerly abolitionist southern region has been, and continues to be, wealthier than the formerly slave-owning northern region.2

Coates’s mistaken view about the origin of American prosperity is part of a larger fallacy about national wealth in general: the assumption that if a nation is wealthy, it must have stolen that wealth from somebody else. To the contrary, a nation’s wealth has more to do with the economic system it adopts and the set of skills its citizens possess. The example of Singapore is instructive: although it was raided by Portugal in the seventeenth century and colonized by Britain in the nineteenth, today Singapore is wealthier than both Portugal and Britain, in terms of median wealth per adult. By the same measure, not a single one of the nations that made Atlanta Black Star’s list of “Top 6 Countries That Grew Filthy Rich From Enslaving Black People” would make the list of top six wealthiest countries today. Indeed, they would rank 9th, 11th, 12th, 21st, 24th, and 30th. The wealth of modern nations was not plundered; it was, and continues to be, created.3

The second factor offered as an explanation for the wealth gap is the exclusion of blacks from a set of New Deal policies designed to promote homeownership, income growth, and wealth accrual. After World War II, whites received the vast majority of government-backed mortgage loans.4 By the time the civil rights gains of the 1960s made these loans available to blacks, it was too late—the crucial economic boom of the previous two decades, during which housing values rapidly appreciated, had already passed, and blacks, reeling from the effects of redlining and income suppression, couldn’t enter the housing market at its new prices.5 Wealth—in the form of property and inheritances transferred from parent to child—became a birthright for whites. Meanwhile, deprived of such wealth transfers, poverty became a permanent trap for blacks.6

But this story, though based in truth, has been massaged to give the false impression that benevolence from the state is a prerequisite for wealth accrual. The account even contains some factual errors. Rothstein, for instance, falsely claims that “African American incomes didn’t take off until the 1960s,”7 and that “black workers did not share in the income gains that [white] blue collar workers realized” in the mid-twentieth century.8 Although it is true that the median income of white men more than tripled between 1939 and 1960 (rising from 1,112 dollars to 5,137 dollars), the median income of black men more than quintupled (rising from 460 dollars to 3,075 dollars).9 Black women, too, saw their incomes grow at a faster rate than white women over the same timespan.10 Baradaran makes the same mistake in her description of life for blacks in the 1940s and 50s: “poverty led to institutional breakdown, which led to more poverty.”11 But between 1940 and 1960 the black poverty rate fell from 87 percent to 47 percent, before any significant civil rights gains were made.12

The prevailing progressive narrative also gives short shrift to the history of immigrant groups succeeding in the face of racist hostility and without help from the government. Baradaran, for instance, criticizes the “pervasive myth that immigrant success was based purely on individual work ethic.” To the contrary, she claims, “most immigrants’ bootstraps had been provided to them by the government.”13

But history tells a different story. Starting with the California Alien Land Law of 1913, fourteen states passed laws preventing Japanese-American peasant farmers from owning land and property. These laws existed until 1952, when the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Add to this the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II, and it’s fair to say that the Japanese were given no bootstraps in America. Nevertheless, by 1970 census data showed Japanese-Americans out-earning Anglo-Americans, Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Polish-Americans.14 For Asian-Americans on the whole, an analysis of wealth data from 1989 to 2013 predicted that their “median wealth soon will surpass the white median level.” If wealth differences were largely explained by America’s history of favoring certain groups over others, then it would be hard to explain why Asian-Americans, who were never favored, are on track to become wealthier than whites.

Exclusion Order directing Japanese Americans living in the first San Francisco section to evacuate.

Nor can historical racism explain wealth disparities between groups of the same race. A 2015 survey of wealth in Boston found that the median black household had only 8 dollars of wealth. Newsweek reported this fact under the heading “Racism in Boston.” But the 8 dollar figure only pertained to black Bostonians of American ancestry; black Bostonians of Caribbean ancestry had 12,000 dollars of wealth, despite having identical rates of college graduation, only slightly higher incomes, and being equally black in the same city.

Similar disparities emerge when people are grouped by religion. A 2003 study found that Jewish households had a 7-to-1 wealth advantage over Conservative Protestant households, despite the fact that Protestants have been favored over Jews for most of American history. Because facts like these discredit the assumption that government favoritism drives wealth accrual, they don’t make it into the progressive narrative. When all the facts are included, the story changes: wealth is not handed from the top down. It is produced by a bottom-up process involving millions of individuals bringing their skills, habits, and knowledge—attributes which vary from group to group—to bear on valuable tasks.

It’s not looking good for the progressive narrative about the racial wealth gap. Still, there is a kernel of truth to it. Researchers at Brandeis followed a nationally representative set of 1,700 families from 1984 to 2009 and measured their wealth gains over that period. They concluded that inherited wealth and length of homeownership accounted for 5 percent and 27 percent, respectively, of the racial disparity in wealth gains. But even if that combined 32 percent could be automatically ascribed to historical racism (which it cannot), that would still leave 68 percent of the gap to be explained by other factors. In short, many commentators have zoomed in on the fraction of the story that can be told without discomfort but have ignored the rest.

*      *      *

Conspicuous by its absence in the progressive account of the racial wealth gap is any active role for blacks themselves. Reading Baradaran, Rothstein, and Coates, one gets the impression that there is nothing blacks could do to improve their lot—outside of asking the government for radical policy solutions. But there are things that blacks can do. Indeed, there are certain elements of black American culture that, if changed, would allow blacks to amass wealth to a degree that no government policy would be likely to match.

No element of culture harms black wealth accrual more directly than spending patterns. Nielsen, one of the world’s leading market research firms, keeps extensive data on American consumer behavior, broken down demographically. A 2017 Nielsen report found that, compared to white women, black women were 14 percent more likely to own a luxury vehicle, 16 percent more likely to purchase costume jewelry, and 9 percent more likely to purchase fine jewelry. A similar Nielsen report from 2013 found that, while only 62 percent of all Americans owned a smartphone, 71 percent of blacks owned one. Moreover, all of these spending differences were unconditional on wealth and income.

To what extent do poor spending habits explain the persistence of the wealth gap? Economists at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania asked this question after analyzing 16 years of nationally representative data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Consistent with the Nielsen data, they found that blacks with comparable incomes to whites spent 17 percent less on education, and 32 percent more (an extra $2300 per year in 2005 dollars) on ‘visible goods’—defined as cars, jewelry, and clothes. What’s more, “after controlling for visible spending,” they concluded that the “wealth gap between Blacks and Whites, conditional on permanent income, declines by 50 percent.” To be clear, that 50 percent figure doesn’t pertain to the total wealth gap, but to the proportion of the gap that remains after income is taken into account—which was 40 percent. The upshot: the fact that blacks spent more on cars, jewelry, and clothes explained fully 20 percent of the total racial wealth gap.

To make matters worse, spending patterns are just one part of a larger set of financial skills on which blacks lag behind. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis followed over 40,000 families from 1989 to 2013, tracking their wealth accumulation and financial decisions. They developed a financial health scale, ranging from 0 to 5, that measured the degree to which families made “routine financial health choices that contribute to wealth accumulation”—e.g., saving any amount of money, paying credit card bills on time, having a low debt-to-income ratio, etc. At 3.12, Asian families scored the highest, followed by whites at 3.11, Hispanics at 2.71, and blacks at 2.63.

Next, they asked if education accounted for the differences in financial habits by limiting the comparison to middle-aged families with advanced degrees. Surprisingly, they found that the racial gap in financial health-scores didn’t shrink; it widened. Highly-educated Asian families scored 3.49, comparable whites scored 3.38, comparable Hispanics scored 2.94, and comparable blacks remained far behind at 2.66. Thus, the study authors concluded, neither “periodic shortages of time or money” nor “lower educational attainment” were the driving forces behind the differences in financial decision-making.

Many find it hard to confront such data. People worry that discussing behaviors that blacks disproportionately engage in represents a backslide into white supremacy and racist stereotyping. Ibram X. Kendi expresses this concern in his New York Times bestseller Stamped from the Beginning: “When you truly believe that racial groups are equal, then you also believe that racial disparities must be the result of racial discrimination.”15

But this makes no sense. Is it racist to observe that whites are more likely to drive drunk than blacks are? Is it racist to assert that black immigrants in the UK outscore comparable white Britons on standardized tests? Is it racist to observe that black American culture has produced a higher number of musical icons than Asian-American culture has? And if it’s not racist to mention these facts, then why is it racist to mention the same kinds of facts when they run in the opposite direction? Moreover, cultural differences can even cause disparities between groups that belong to the same race, as with the aforementioned wealth disparities between black Americans and black Caribbeans living in Boston, or the nearly 4-to-1 income ratio between Taiwanese-Americans and Hmong-Americans. Discussing the different patterns of behavior that underlie such intra-racial disparities cannot be racist, by definition. Race and culture, though often correlated, are entirely different concepts.

Just like no person is born knowing how to brew beer or play basketball, no person is born knowing how to build wealth. These skills must be taught. And just like some cultures teach beer-brewing or basketball-playing better than others, some cultures teach wealth-building better. Children from one culture may routinely hear phrases like “asset diversification,” “mutual fund,” and “inflation rate” on the lips of their parents, whereas children from another culture may not hear such phrases until adulthood, if they ever hear them at all. More importantly, those who believe they are helping black Americans—or any demographic group—succeed by encouraging them to blame society are mistaken. Talking honestly about harmful behavioral patterns is the only way to reliably correct them. This ethical blind-spot is thrown into sharp relief by imagining instead that it was a loved one who was making disastrous financial decisions. Would you withhold criticism from them for fear that you’d be ‘blaming the victim’? Would you feed this person story after story meant to confirm their belief that society had caused all their problems? Or would you view it as your duty—a duty born out of your love for that person—to point out their self-defeating behaviors and encourage them to make wiser decisions? To alter a quote from James Baldwin: I love black American culture, and exactly for this reason I insist on the right to criticize it perpetually.

*      *      *

But let’s assume for a moment that I’m wrong, and that all of the racial wealth gap is directly attributable to slavery and discrimination. What then? If the government made the wealth gap, then shouldn’t the government unmake it? This line of thinking—wherein the entity that created a problem must fix it—dominates scholarship on the wealth gap. “It was our government that segregated American neighborhoods,” writes Rothstein, “…and it is our government that now must craft remedies.”16 Likewise, Coates maintains that, “as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same.”

But the entity responsible for a harm cannot always redress it. This truth is illustrated by ‘The Parable of the Pedestrian,’ from legal scholar Amy Wax: A reckless driver runs a stop light and hits a pedestrian, injuring her spine. Doctors inform the pedestrian that if she ever wants to walk again she’ll have to spend many painstaking years in physical therapy. Clearly, she bears no responsibility for her injury; she was victimized by the reckless driver. Yet the driver cannot make her whole. He might pay for her medical bills, for instance, but he cannot make her attend her tedious physical therapy sessions; only she can do that. Still, she might resist. She might write historical accounts detailing precisely how and why the driver injured her. When her physical therapists demand more of her, she might accuse them of blaming the victim. She might wallow in the unfairness of it all. But this will change nothing. The nature of her injury precludes the possibility of anyone besides her healing it.17

The dynamic underlying the Parable of the Pedestrian scales up to entire communities. It is no longer primarily racism that holds blacks back, but a set of cultural elements—some acquired from white southerners,18 some a consequence of historical racism,19 others a consequence of the political upheavals of the 1960s,20 and some which are mysterious in origin—that are ill-suited for success in a modern information economy. Thus, unfair as it may seem, blacks can now do more for themselves than either whites or the government can do for them.

But many commentators are loath to acknowledge this, preferring instead to believe that whatever was done to blacks can be undone by reversing the process. Rothstein, for instance, suggests using federal policy to “desegregate” every suburb in America. If the greater New York metropolitan area is 15 percent black, he reasons, then we should employ a “plus-or-minus-10-percent rule” such that “any suburb whose African American population was less than 5 percent should be considered segregated and required to take steps to integrate.”21 If segregation was a form of racist social engineering, then what is required, in his view, is an equal and opposite form of anti-racist social engineering. As with social engineers of other eras, the specter of unintended consequences and infringements on individual liberty are mere afterthoughts, if they are considered at all.

Drinking fountain on the Halifax County Courthouse (North Carolina) in April 1938.

During the half century since the end of the civil rights movement, the academic Left has been asking the question—who is to blame for the state of black America?—on the assumption that, once we identify the guilty party, we can petition it for a solution. Baradaran typifies this mindset. In her view, the “essential first step to dealing with the wealth gap is to acknowledge that it was created through racist public policy.”22 But what do such “acknowledgements” achieve, other than to imbue those doing the acknowledging with a sense of virtue? Acknowledging historical racism is no more of an “essential first step” to closing the wealth gap than acknowledging the driver’s culpability is an essential first step to healing the injured pedestrian.

The salient question should never have been who to blame for blacks’ predicament, but who is able to fix it. If the problem were simply a lack of cash, then the government would be the ideal candidate. But if we learned anything from the explosion of violent crime and single motherhood following welfare expansion in the late 1960s, it was that cash transfers cannot solve a problem that the absence of cash didn’t cause. Herein lies one of the many issues with reparations: it would not address the root causes of black underachievement. Fans of the concept should ask themselves: what will happen the day after reparations are paid, when black students still spend less time on homework than their white peers, blacks are still making poor financial decisions, and two out of every three black kids are still living in single-parent homes? On that day, I’d hope to see progressive scholars acknowledge that they had been asking the wrong question for 50 years. But I would not be shocked to hear them insist that, if only the reparations checks had been a bit larger, black America’s problems would have been solved.

Those who agree that top-down cultural reform is naïve might still object that bottom-up reform is equally quixotic. How, exactly, does one go about changing something as complex and distributed as culture? On this point, the history of formerly lagging ethnic groups is instructive. Whether measured by rates of alcoholism, high school graduation, or income, Irish-Americans used to lag far behind other American ethnic groups.23 As one point of reference, the incarceration rate for Irish-Americans was five times higher than for German-Americans in 1904. The response? While some Irish leaders blamed society, others, notably those in the Catholic Church, launched an inward-looking campaign to change behavioral patterns within the Irish community.24 Similar efforts were made by acculturated German-American Jews, whose stern programs of assimilation for their less-cultured Eastern European co-religionists included giving them “pointed lessons on the use of soap and water,” according to Sowell.25

That’s not to say that the details of these particular self-help campaigns are either replicable or wise. It’s only to say that historical examples of successful self-help campaigns exist. By contrast, I do not know of a single instance in which an underachieving ethnic minority rose to economic prominence by asking the government for cash transfers, preferential policies in education and employment, or apologies for past injustices. Given how skewed the historical scorecard is, it’s strange that the burden of argument is so often placed on advocates of self-help to prove that our strategy is the realistic one. Common sense would place the burden of argument on the advocates of programs which have never worked anywhere to prove that, for whatever reason, this time is different.

On the racial wealth gap and similar issues, we seem to have reached a political stalemate. The Left, which has the power to start an intelligent conversation about culture, refuses to admit that culture accounts for many of the racial gaps typically ascribed to systemic racism. The Right, which acknowledges the role of culture, is too far from the media channels through which blacks tend to communicate, to have any chance of starting a robust conversation about culture in the black community. On one side we have ignorance, and on the other, impotence. And stuck in the middle we have the next generation of black Americans, who will grow up far more likely than their non-black peers to hold values inimical to wealth-building because the previous generation could not figure out how to speak honestly about black American culture.


Coleman Hughes is an undergraduate philosophy major at Columbia University. His writing has been featured on Heterodox Academy’s blog as well as in the Columbia Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter @coldxman


1 Thomas Sowell, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics, 235.
2 Ibid., 235, 414.
3 See the “Lump Fallacy” in Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now, 80, 99.
4 Mehrsa Baradaran, The Color of Money, 6, 108, 126-127.
5 Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law, 161, 179-180, 182-183.
6 Baradaran, Money, 109; Rothstein, Law, 179.
7 Rothstein, Law, 181.
8 Ibid., 161.
9 Jason Riley, False Black Power?, 79.
10 Ibid., 80.
11 Baradaran, Money, 109.
12 Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 50; Riley, False Black Power?, 81.
13 Baradaran, Money, 126-127.
14 Sowell, The Economics and Politics of Race, 187.
15 Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning, 11.
16 Rothstein, Law, 222.
17 Amy Wax, Race, Wrongs, and Remedies, 14-17.
18 See Sowell, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” in Black Rednecks and White Liberals.
19 See Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside.
20 Charles Murray, Losing Ground, 56-146; Thomas Sowell, Vision of the Anointed, 9-15, 21-30.

21 Rothstein, Law, 205.
22 Baradaran, Money, 281.
23 Sowell, Intellectuals and Race, 10; Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 87-88, 227.
24 Ibid., 18-19; Ibid., 252-253.
25 Sowell, “Are Jews Generic?” in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 90.

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  1. Steven Noufer says

    Great article. I’ve seen a couple of articles written by Coleman and watched him interviewed on a podcast. In each one, he has some insights that I was not aware of. Always interesting.

    • Pete says

      Completely agree, I remember reading a few of his articles and being impressed, then shocked when I learned he was still in undergrad. I have a feeling that, 30 years from now, I’ll be able to smugly mention that I’ve been reading him since his college days after he makes some big contribution to the world.

    • I don’t know about investing in him. He looks kind of old in the profile picture on top of the page to have a promising future.

      • He’s a 22 year old undergraduate at Columbia University who, before being admitted to Columbia, was studying Jazz at Julliard.

  2. craiglgood says

    Such clear-eyed writing makes me weep for joy. I look forward to seeing and hearing more from him.

  3. Peter from Oz says

    Excellent article. The two great fallacies of the left are the zero sum fallacy and the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. You have explained clearly how these two logical errors have caused the left to misunderstand the problem of the ”wealth gap.” The left’s thinking on several other issues is also tainted by these two fallacies.

    • Nick Ender says

      Dude! I had the EXACT same thought! Mr. Hughes just did a podcast with Sam Harris. So I think the IDW is thinking the same thing.

  4. AC Harper says

    “In short, many commentators have zoomed in on the fraction of the story that can be told without discomfort but have ignored the rest.”

    Suggesting that politically correct thinking is *harmful*. People who look at the world as only a struggle for power, or as only identity politics, or only sexual politics are using a ‘periscope’ to view the world and cannot see the wider picture. They don’t want to know it exists because that upsets their certainty that they know the cause and answer to what they see.

    I do wonder if we collectively had the moral strength to address the uncomfortable bits, the easy bits (racism, sexism, genderism, ableism etc.) might naturally shrink too.

  5. DBruce says

    When Henry George wrote Progress and Poverty in the 1870s he saw it explicitly as a completion of the abolition of slavery. He knew that the freed slaves, along with all other ordinary workers, are subject to de facto slavery due to the structure of our tax system – increases in productivity, increases in wages are captured by landlords.
    Its not about the state intervening, its about the state repealing a privilege it has granted to one group, landowners – we need to shift taxes from labour and capital onto land.

    • Fess says

      Shift taxes and create a new set of problems? The point of the article is that state actions and privilege are not the determinant – it is individual actions and attitudes. I really appreciate the author’s pursuit of truth. This website is a breath of fresh air for that very reason.

      • DBruce says

        Fess, no matter what individuals do, they cannot all prosper at the same time unless the tax system is reformed and the huge structural loophole removed. Rents/real estate prices will continue to rise as wages and profits rise, so unless you own land in a good location, you are stuffed, as lots of very highly educated and motivated people know.

        • irene c isaac says

          Such is life….not everyone with prosper at the same time. Some will prosper more and some less and some not at all. You or the state cannot fix that.

        • ccscientist says

          Much of the “inevitable” rise of rents is due to building restrictions. Rents/land prices rise more in San Fran or LA than in Houston, where you can actually build a house.

        • David says

          Might I suggest that there are other assets available to the public at large that allow one to benefit from the economy as a whole, many with preferential tax treatment? As one example, owning stock in a company entitles you to a slice of ownership of the company and any profits it produces. The benefits of owning real estate are not as cut and dried as you make it seem, and I’m not sure why you would focus solely on that.

      • Cal says

        And this article is WRONG in that assertion. Pretending that privilege and racism are not determinate of anything and that ONLY a person’s own individual actions matter is nonsense. It’s just trying to sweep the systemic racism that very much still exists under the rug.

        • DevOps Dad says

          You are correct, Cal. African Americans have no agency, they are simply brown leaves in a white or yellow river moving only in the direction of its current, tumbling and helpless, weak, but angry, they are carried until buried in the sentiment and gravel and become invisible.

        • That_guy says

          Did you read the article? He explicitly concedes that the aspects of black culture that are indemic to wealth creation were caused by slavery and systemic racism. His entire point is that black Americans are the only ones positioned to fully healing the cultural injuries that were inflicted on them. He doesn’t believe top-down approaches are capable of creating the necessary cultural changes that are responsible for the wealth gap.

          • Stephen says

            Always happy to discover a new word I don’t understand. “Indemic”. Not a typo for endemic,I think, but what does it mean?

        • stevengregg says

          Yes, it’s exactly that systemic racism which stopped Obama from becoming president, General Powell from becoming chief of staff of the military, and Condaleeza Rice from becoming Secretary of State. One only wonders how far they could have gone if not for the systemic racism which stopped them.

          • Jeremy Smith says

            It was black culture that brought us the worst and most corrupt president in history. This is hyperbolic but it seemed that the ANC was in control of the US during his tenure. Black culture writ large.

        • Alex says

          Can you please point to specific examples of systemic racism? We’d all like to fight these systems with you. But please let’s be specific.

          • George says

            Honestly, there is systemic racism – you have to look for it, but it exists. However, it has diminished to a level comparable to the bias against Jews, Irish, Poles, Mexicans, etc. It is unacceptable, but if you mix with the correct crowd, and stay quiet, you will see it. Perhaps it might be better to refer to it is individual racism – because it really isn’t institualized in any way. It is more of a sublte current that works at the quieter levels.

    • Bill says

      Shifting of taxes to land simply means that nobody will want to own land and so land prices plummet (and so do taxes unless tax rates become obscenely high like they are in some areas now).

    • Rick G. says

      I’ve often wondered if the land tax idea was originated by a clever, wealthy, property magnate. High property taxes would ensure that only the wealthy could afford property, and once they own the property you can be sure that they will pass the cost of the tax along to their tenants. It will end up being a hidden tax paid by tenants.

      • Bill says

        And far more likely: they can jack up rents and just blame the taxes so they are the “poor victim” as well. When you consider profits are always considered as % of revenue, the end result of this tax is to drive up the revenue, which generates higher profit while still appearing a “low %.”

        • DBruce says

          Bill – land value tax does not change the supply of, or demand for land. Why? Because every renter and every buyer is already paying for land value – its just that it goes to landlords (for renters) and banks (mortgage interest for buyers).
          LVT is the only tax that does not affect supply and demand.

          Rick G – on the contrary, the short but intense history of Georgism ended only when the landowners – the House of Lords in the UK caused a constitutional crisis to stop it.

          Bill – landlords cannot jack up rents – for the same reason as mentioned above – LVT does not change supply/demand. If landlords raised rents then more people would exit that market and buy, same as now.

          LVT is also known as the Single Tax – because the land market is one-third of the economy, all other taxes can be abolished and replaced by one tax – LVT. No income tax, no sales tax, no taxes on consumption or profits – Mason Gaffney calls it “true fiscal stimulus” – it would be an absolute boom to the economy. It is pro worker and pro business *at the same time*.

        • stevengregg says

          Landlords have no control over the rent they charge, which is set by the market.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Henry George’s belief, upon which he based his philosophy was that he who owns the property would inevitably own those living on the property. This wasn’t just idle cloud-castle speculation; he born the same year (1839) the Anti-Rent Wars in Rensselaer County began, which resulted in the elimination of the last vestiges of feudalism in the US (peonage is a different breed of beast). So he knew people who had experienced being perpetual tenants.

        I know it’s Wiki, but it’s a good summation of the conflict:

        A briefer article on the cause:

        BTW, Alexander Hamilton helped Stephen Rensselaer draw up the leases that led to the insurrection.

    • Travis says

      How are land owners not already paying? My property tax is 3500.00 a year. I’m not unique. I agree we should repeal the income tax amendment but I’d argue it should be replaced with a consumption tax. Taxing land more will simply prevent more new home owners.

      • Cal says

        Consumption taxes are the worst form of taxation ever devised. And as for your property tax of $3500 a year, that’s peanuts.

        • L. D. says

          Sorry, how is that peanuts? Um. Your arrogance is astounding Cal.

          • Sharon says

            I have a 50×100 lot with a Cape Cod house and pay $8500/yr in property taxes. To me, $3500 is peanuts.

        • Jay Salhi says

          “Progressive” countries often have the highest taxes on consumption. 25% in Sweden and Denmark, for example.

      • DBruce says

        Travis. LVT is not the same as property tax. LVT does not tax the building, only the value of your land. Yes, you probably are paying some LVT in your property tax, but as i’ve said before, LVT does not prevent more new home owners. LVT keeps real estate prices from going through the roof. In fact, the Single Tax would end the boom bust cycle, because the boom bust cycle is driven by the land market.

    • ccscientist says

      DBruce: You must be reading Marx. We have heavy property taxes already. Landowners are not a cartel that can raise “rents” and there is a market for land so you can buy and sell land. If the apartment owner raises rent you can move to another apartment. The model you imagine existed in the 1700s in Europe with nobility owning most of the land, but never existed in America and does not exist now.
      In any case, we are talking about how the working person accumulates wealth–what habits are helpful or harmful?

      • DBruce says

        ccscientist I don’t know where to start, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Marx hated George – I think out of pure jealousy (George quickly became a best selling author and international public speaker, unlike Marx), but also because he realised that Geo-fiscal reform would explode the myth that labour and capital are “enemies”.
        Maybe this would help you:

      • DBruce says

        ccscientist: there is a stream of revenue called the economic rent of land that has been written out of economics (see Mason Gaffney – the corruption of Economics) – it accounts for one-third of the economy. It comprises of location value and natural resource value. The economic rent of land is partly a pure gift of nature (eg oil, fertile soil) and partly community created (eg tax expenditure on infrastructure and services).
        This is what we should be taxing, not wages and profits. At present the economic rent of land goes to landowners – ie landlords, banks (mortgage interest) and people who own real estate and have paid off their mortgage.
        Martin Wolf of the FT:

        • Unrepentant says

          Dbruce: You state that land is part gift of nature(1) and part government created(2). This is wrong on its face, pure socialist drivel. Raw land has very little value, you can buy raw land in parts of america for less than $200/acre. Improved land however (farms, housing, etc) derives the vast majority of its value from improvements made by its primary settlers and subsequent purchasers/improvers. Infrastructure and “services” provided by the State structure is thoroughly modern in concept, and not even true in all places even to this day (there are vast remote parcels of land in the USA and other countries with zero direct government infrastructure or services, yet with private installations and value attached to them).

          Imagine a farm with its own well, solar panels, and self sufficiency on an island in the middle of a lake. It was previously a barren rock on the water, terraformed by its owner with the purchase of loads of dirt. Its owner thoroughly rejects any government “services”. Where is the gift of nature? Where is the tax expenditure? Its not there, yet this island farm surely has plenty of value.

    • Nick Ender says

      You’ve obviously never payed property tax in NY.

  6. Softclocks says

    This guy is an undergrad? He should be teaching classes!

  7. Roger Armstrong says

    I listened once to Sam Harris talk to Charles Murray once about the difference in iq between races amongst other things. Harris commented many times that it wasn’t a discussion with any relevance but what if it’s true and you then juxtapositipose the “strongly supported contention” that iq is increasingly relatively financially rewarded? This, together with the increasing trend of single parent families in African American families would offer a strong hypothesis that it is entirely logical that the wealth gap between whites and blacks in America could be widening without any racist causes.

    • MCA says

      The problem is the “genetic IQ gap” isn’t well supported empirically, so you’re just adding an unsupported assumption to the model, violating Occam’s razor.

      On the other hand, we know what lead does to the brain, and have quite strong evidence that lead accumulation in city centers and subsequent exposure have causes lead poisoning in a lot of people (predominantly but not exclusively African American). This massive environmental factor (which also hopelessly confounds any attempt at detecting racial IQ differences) could play the appropriate role in your model.

      • Paul Ellis says

        I don’t deny the influence of lead, but if we look at UK cities, which were also subject to lead pollution from vehicle exhausts and lead plumbing and whose populations were overwhelmingly white when this pollution was at its worst, we ought to see a corresponding dip in average UK inner-city white IQ and its subsequent recovery working its way through the urban population.

        Do we? And if so, why would this not apply to inner-city black, brown or yellow populations? Their IQ ought to be recovering from the worst of lead pollution by now, along with the whites. Is it?

        • TarsTarkas says

          Read some articles by Theodore Dalympyre on the state of inner city youth and people. Whether it’s lead in the brain or not, it’s the culture that matters, not the genetics.

      • Paul Ellis says

        A further example would be Tokyo, whose population was almost exclusively Yamato Japanese during the worst of vehicle exhaust lead poisoning. If its population revealed an IQ dip, and assuming that susceptibility to lead poisoning doesn’t vary much by population group, it ought to be possible to use those figures to control for the influence of lead poisoning.

      • @MCA

        “This massive environmental factor (which also hopelessly confounds any attempt at detecting racial IQ differences) could play the appropriate role in your model.”

        This would only be true if we were unable to compare IQ scores between groups of people living in major cities who have equal chances of exposure to your supposed confounding factor. It turns out, this factor is quite easy to control for and eliminate as a possible cause.

        • Amphi says

          Then cite such a study. And no proxy metrics like location – I want to see childhood lead levels vs IQ broken down by race.

      • DevOps Dad says

        MCA said, “This massive environmental factor (which also hopelessly confounds any attempt at detecting racial IQ differences) could play the appropriate role in your model.”

        Right. So that’s why the 1940s, and 1950s gas pump jockeys, filling up idling cars, and garage mechanics, tuning engines became retarded. And that’s why the millions of deep rural Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Carolinas Blacks have much higher SAT scores than highly urban Whites or Blacks.

        Let’s just toss out what we learned and observed during 10,000 years of animal and plant husbandry and knell on the altar of Equality.

        That’s me in the corner
        That’s me in the spotlight
        Losing my Equality
        Trying to keep up with you
        And I don’t know if I can do it
        Oh no, I’ve said too much

        I haven’t said enough …

      • Jeremy Smith says

        Comparison of SAT scores belie that. Students from high income black households scored just above whites from low income households and far below high income white households. Read the John Ogbu study regarding academic disparity between whites and blacks in affluent Shaker Heights. It’s the parents and culture. Govt can’t fix that, blacks need to.

      • The onus in on you to show that lead differences make up the 15 point gap. Please share sources.

      • Max says

        This is not true.

        There are papers here and there you can find questioning the prevailing literature on IQ variance among different populations, but the overwhelming consensus is there are differences overall. Genes play a large role, generally – and very conservatively – accounting for 60% of IQ. Childhood environment accounts for the rest. You can’t pick your genes and you can’t pick your childhood environment.

        Most cities were and probably still are majority white. Lead poisoning has nothing to do with racial differences in income.

    • ccscientist says

      Whatever the IQ gap, single motherhood and gangsta culture are not helpful.

    • stevengregg says

      The IQ gap is due to culture, not race. If you reject school as “acting white,” then your IQ will suffer.

    • Friedrich says

      “some which are mysterious in origin”;perhaps not so mysterious after all

    • See your response was the reason why Ezra Klein tried to explain to Sam Harris. This discussion does not happen in a vacuum. when you start making these “logical conclusions” then it becomes someones elses problem or not your fault. So if the perception that all blacks are just inherently inferior then society has no reason or ability to fix the perceived problem. Why teach monkeys trigonometry? Not taking historical contexts into account seem to me the way for you to put your head in the sand and victim blame current people for the crimes of your ancestors.

  8. ga gamba says

    Great article, Mr Hughes. I genuinely appreciate the effort of those who dig into data.

    Wealth—in the form of property and inheritances transferred from parent to child—became a birthright for whites.

    If this is a birthright, then we should find data that confirms it. Not only should we find a majority of whites inheriting wealth, because it’s a “birthright” for whites it should be a significant majority. Though 100 per cent is out of the question, I think we ought to find wealth transfers greater than 80 percent and probably more than 90 per cent.

    This study from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in its abstract: We found that on average over the period from 1989 to 2007, 21 percent of American households at a given point of time received a wealth transfer and these accounted for 23 percent of their net worth.

    In the report the researchers delve back into the decades: Projector and Weiss (1966), using the 1963 Survey of Financial Characteristics of Consumers, reported that only 17 percent of families had received any inheritance. This compares with a figure of 18 percent, reported by Morgan, David, Cohen, and Brazer (1962). The Projector and Weiss study also found that only 5 percent of households had received a “substantial” proportion of their wealth from inheritance. …. Brown and Weisbenner (2004), using the 1998 SCF [Survey of Consumer Finances], estimated that 19 percent of households that year received some kind of wealth transfers.

    They include transfers by race: The proportion of non-Hispanic white households reporting a wealth transfer was on average more than twice as great as the share of non-Hispanic African-Americans (25 versus 10 percent). Only 5.5 percent of Hispanic households, on average, reported a wealth transfer, while the figure was higher, 12 percent, for Asian and other races. . . . It is also of note that wealth transfers amounted to a greater proportion of the current net worth of African-American than of white households in 1998 — 32 percent versus 19 percent. Wealth transfers also made up a much smaller share of the wealth holdings of Hispanics and Asian-Americans than of whites in 1998. While this share generally declined over time among white households, there was no clear time trend in this ratio for blacks or Hispanics. Among Asians, this share increased somewhat from 1989 to 2007.

    It appears inheritance is not a white birthright.

    A few years ago I dug into this issue for comments in the Guardian. It may be question with an obvious answer, but still it needs to be asked: Why do people seek wealth? Though most people wouldn’t decline being a billionaire, their goals and needs tend be be more realistic. The three key ones are buying a home, providing for their children’s tertiary educations, and their own retirements. Passing on wealth may be desired, but nursing home fees eat up a high proportion of middle-class nest eggs

    The National Center of Educational Statistics reported in the 2007-08 academic year, 16.4 percent of all white undergraduates received merit-based aid. For all black undergraduates, 11.4 percent received merit-based grants. Just over 30 percent of all white students received scholarship grants based on need, compared to 52.9 percent of all black undergraduates.

    If we look only at those students attending four-year colleges and universities on a full-time basis, we find that 35.1 percent of white students and 26.9 percent of black students received merit-based grants. Nearly 40 percent of white students and 70.6 percent of black students received need-based financial aid. More government scholarships and those granted by schools themselves are needs based than merit based. For example, Stanford states: “Our financial aid program is need-based, meaning that all aid eligibility is determined by your family’s financial circumstances.” For those of the class of 2020 who are from families with a gross annual income of $65,000 or less, the average annual award is $68,097.

    The scholarship search site Unigo lists about 18,000 scholarships for minorities. About 84% of African American graduates were recipients of Pell Grants, which don’t need to be repaid, to finance their education whilst only 60% of white students were recipients.

    I’m not saying blacks have a barrier-free path to pursue advanced education, but there are many preferences and reservations set aside for minorities that exist.

    Decades ago industrial workers had pensions but that’s long gone. Who still has pensions? The public sector. Take a look at the rates of public-sector employment and you’ll find blacks are disproportionately employed there. An outcome of this people have less concern of building wealth whilst working because their retirement needs are covered. How is wealth built? It’s when your money is working for you and not you working for your money. We find that blacks are less likely to invest in stocks and other financial instruments than other groups. Certainly there is no barrier to entry to buy stocks and bonds. Are blacks more risk adverse? I don’t know. But a risk gap exists. Is such a gap seen as favouring or disfavouring blacks? It depends on one’s perspective and how the market is performing at the given time, but certainly with the chance for gains also comes the chance of losses. We also see this risk adversity in entrepreneurship, a path many wealthy people take: Asians are the most likely to found a business and blacks the least likely.

    Recently, there’s been heated debate about “self made” wealth, so let’s ignore Obama’s silly “You didn’t make it” speech and use the common definition of a person who is not handed their wealth, assets, and businesses by their families or family-established trusts. Self-made entrepreneurs are disproportionately wealthy vice those who are employees, even those who highly skilled and well compensated. About 13% of the US workforce started or was running their own business in 2012. In 1982 according to Forbes about 38% of America’s wealthiest people were self made; in 2012, the percentage jumped to 70%. Appears America has no problem transferring wealth to those who innovate better products and services. According to the Small Business Administration as of 2013, black-owned firms represented 7 per cent of all US businesses and Asian-owned were 4.3. Blacks are 13 per cent of population and Asians as 5 per cent.

    Lastly, and importantly, credit worthiness matters. A lot. Those whose scores are poor have a tough time obtaining loans, and those they get are at a higher interest rate making it more difficult to sustain payments and to build wealth. Again, we find Asians are the most credit worthy and blacks the least. Taking on credit, using it wisely, and paying one’s bills in a timely manner is an individual choice and action.

    Mr Hughes rightly mentions single-parent families with dependent children, of which more than 80% are headed by single mothers, are disproportionately poor. Yes, there are plenty a single mums who work their tails off to rear their children, but doing so on one income is far more difficult than two. Approximately 60 per cent of US children living in mother-only families are impoverished, compared with only 11 per cent of two-parent families. The rate of poverty is even higher in black single-parent families, in which two out of every three children are poor. Moreover, we are looking at multi-generational poverty – in some cases four generations of welfare recipients. Has the government’s benefits programmes, well-intended or not, so deeply embedded a cycle of poverty and dependency that many recipients have simply decided to accept and live with?

    • Jeremy Smith says

      Thank you, ga gamba, for your extensive and well written post.

  9. DearAunty says

    Excellent article,the last paragraph particularly. When progressives bang on about racism, colonialism & slavery, they justify & excuse the next generation of victims with no aspirations. Reduce the welfare and let them stand unaided.
    Of course, they might alter their voting patterns if that happens!

  10. ed t says

    Excellent article. Sometimes I find myself questioning the value of detailed engagement with a self-evidently irrational political stream of thought, but how else to tackle a real problem than by rationality? Just a couple of thoughts to add. One is that the cultural ‘self-help’ transformation is a bit trickier to achieve than to talk about. As a white person I personally didn’t ‘routinely hear phrases like “asset diversification,” “mutual fund,” and “inflation rate” on the lips’ of my parents, but I benefited from the socio-financial confidence of those of my ethnicity who did. In other words, my family (farming, policing, teaching) had a kind of opt-out, but didn’t have to consider the occupations chosen as any form of gift, in a way because the ‘asset diversification’ was just a complexification of ‘crop diversification’ which plenty of people in my family were involved in five generations back and to the present. The word ‘yield’ bears testimony to this connection, suggesting that finance grew out of production on the land, and this organic connection sustains the confidence we have in it to this day. That’s not to say that a straightforward approach won’t work, but it can’t be done by fiat.

    On a related issue, you mentioned the Irish-American self help program. It’s certainly relevant, and interesting, but I think it slightly ignores the political dimension. The Irish-Americans were given their self-respect by a clever political game involving blaming the British Empire for the ills of the world. The Irish (despite having played little role in 1775-83) came to see themselves as the sons of the Republic, and the Stateside support of Republicanism in Ireland reinforced their sense that, in new circumstances, with new freedoms, they could behave differently, win political battles, and even get revenge. In other words, a successful narrative was created (at Britain’s expense, but why not) which got them to pay attention to the ‘rules of the game’ – typical American norms, pastimes, working patterns etc.

    Just my two-cents 😉

  11. Thank you for a very interesting article.

    It also reminded me that I have a bad habit of running up debt, even though I save and do have a fair financial reserve.

    I’m going to have to get stuck in and live within my means.

  12. Paul Ellis says

    Sometimes a countervailing view to the orthodox strikes one like a bolt of lightning. I was struck in this way when reading an article by Bruce Anderson in the Spectator a few months ago:

    ‘The so-called Highland Clearances are one of the most misrepresented events in all history. Because of them, a splendid race of men whose abilities and energies had frequently been sacrificed in an unrelenting struggle for subsistence and survival had their prospects transformed. Across the ocean, they found land, in many cases leading to riches, plus the opportunity to help build a new nation, for it would be reasonable to describe much of Canada as Nova Scotia.’

    Whatever moral objections one has to the Clearances, Anderson is surely right about the Sottish diaspora in the New World, which has done the world a service. The point is that the Scots had the cultural wherewithal to capitalise on the silver lining of the Clearances: opportunity in a new world.

    • DBruce says

      Paul. I take your point but those migrants had the historical luck to find a new home with plenty of available land. Others – who went to Glasgow, found abject poverty. That’s one reason why Scotland became a Georgist hotbed before WW1.

      • Paul Ellis says

        Anderson makes the same point in his piece. Capitalising upon opportunity requires recognising it for what it is, risk-taking, a spirit of self-reliance, and other factors, not least of which is luck. Some people get lucky, some don’t, some make their own luck.

        Where Anderson is surely right is that the Highland Scots were largely wasting themselves and their talents in subsistence farming, and would probably have continued to do so had they not been Cleared. It’s worth considering other enforced migrations, and their consequences, from a similar perspective.

  13. Bill says

    I would argue with your very first paragraph about inter-generational wealth being a “white thing.” It isn’t. It is a risk-aversion thing. I have found black Americans more inclined to live in the moment, to spend, to enjoy because they know they can survive (if need be) while poor. White Americans, are more interested in having their own safety net and financial security (even if fleeting). The end result is that in “the end” the white American is more likely have assets to pass down. These generalities do not hold for the whole population because i’ve used white vs black. In reality, it is more akin to Dem vs Repub or Left vs Right. A segment of the population, if given $1mil would go on a spending spree/world cruise/etc. The other segment would invest that $1mil hoping to stretch it out over as many years as possible. Look at Johnny Depp vs Warren Buffett.

    • Jonathan says

      I hate to say this but I don’t think it comes down to blacks being less risk-averse it comes down to blacks having on average a lower IQ than whites, Asians and Hispanics. In the article the author showed that Asians were the most frugal, followed by whites, Hispanics and then blacks. I would venture to guess that Jews actually lead the group in regards to frugality. Is it a coincidence that this follows the IQ stratification perfectly? The lower your IQ the less long-term thinking and ability to delay gratification. It’s also why IQ and out of wedlock birth rates match perfectly as well. Intelligent people are more cautious when it comes to their sexual habits because they think ahead and want to avoid a pregnancy that will derail their future success. This is also why birth rates correlate closely with intelligence. You can’t improve IQ in a generation but I agree with the author that self-help can be effective. The black culture must change so that there is internal pressure on the community to be responsible.

  14. M. Smith says

    On the Coates line in the beginning. The 1 in 4 southerners owning slaves seems almost like a lie. I don’t have statistics with me. But most southerners owned like one or two slaves of the 25% that did own slaves. Clearly they weren’t very wealthy. Only like 1% of Southerners had large plantations and that’s where 90% of the slaves were. So really white families benefitting from slavery that doesn’t make much sense. And I’d wager a guess that many of the 1% who were plantation owners didn’t ALL pass down their wealth up to now, that would take meticulous financial planning, responsible heirs every generation, and so forth. Also many families weren’t that well off and the plantations didn’t make that much money either, the land and house was the basis of their net worth.

    Slavery in the South : a state-by-state history
    by Clayton E. Jewett, John O. Allen
    This is one of the books we read in my American South history class.

    • stevengregg says

      The statistic I recall about slave owners in the South was one in seven. Slaves were very expensive, priced out of the reach of most poor Southerners.

    • I recall at the peak of slavery in the US 6% of the entire US population owned slaves and about 1.8% at the outbreak of the CW. You had to be extremely wealthy to own slaves and very few in the south were wealthy. Spain and Portugal (Iberians) controlled almost 70% of the entire African slave trade many centuries prior to the founding of America.

      See:The Iberian Roots of American Racist Thought Author(s): James H. Sweet Source: The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Jan., 1997), pp. 143-166 Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Stable URL: .

      Also see: the Emory University slave trade database.

    • Jeremy Smith says

      Coates is using the household estimate which bulks up the number of slave owners by a lot. I can understand somewhat his using that number because slaves do support the whole family but only one person legally owns that slave so if you talk about individual slave owners the number is much lower like 5%. Take your pick.

  15. Tony says

    I think there are hints that groups like the NAACP see the real problem with their eyes wide open. Recently they have started a partnership with the LDS church (!) to administer classes in budgeting, entrepreneurship skills, getting a better job, and getting the right degree.( They are starting in the inner cities of Camden, NJ, Atlanta, GA, and Baltimore, MD. I do not write this to toot the horn of the NAACP or the LDS church, but this is the type of bottom-up effort that could lead to slow and long-lasting change. I hope it does!

  16. Black people are the essential sacred objects of the Left. To sustain a tattered narrative of victim and oppressor, progressives (most of whom were birthed in the paler and more suburban regions of the east coast upper-middle class) need a hero group, and the (mostly white) proletarians, with their bad haircuts and tainted Euro heritage just don’t cut it any more, and nor does the mantle quite fit on the hydra-head of the LBBQ crowd. So, by natural default, the role falls into the lap of Africa-America, the most violent (FBI stats say a staggeringly 4.5 times more violent than the rest of the US), charismatic, underachieving (middle class blacks fall far below their identically-situated white peers in virtually every known academic and life measurement), and not coincidentally, opportunistic, of all the possible candidates.

    Meanwhile, other historical victims of nasty white oppression (e.g., Japanese-Americans, Jews, Chinese-Americans) easily outperform and outclass white-bread Americans in virtually everything that matters (e.g., education, income, test scores, longevity, crime rates), and, amazingly, all without hundreds of billions of dollars in government hand-outs, affirmative action, subsidies, and goodwill having been spent on them.

    What, oh what, could be the explanation for this apparent paradox? Ask a progressive and what you’ll hear is practically everything but the actual reason.

    • Ethan G says

      Here’s your explanation. Average IQ (from a number of studies) – Ashkenazi Jews 110, Chinese 105, Japanese 103, Europeans 100, African-Americans 85. IQ is the predictor of everything good, from low crime rate to educational and income achievement.

      • gda says

        Nice to see at least one clear headed and honest analysis.

        This article is a devastating factual annihilation of the leftist narrative, and there have been some great comments in support of the facts cited.

        But, of course, the article (and majority of comments) only skirt around the elephant in the room. Hereditarianism and IQ.

        Until we can speak clearly and openly about such matters, things will never change.

        So that would be around about the time that pigs grow wings then.

        • Paul Ellis says

          “But, of course, the article (and majority of comments) only skirt around the elephant in the room. Hereditarianism and IQ.”

          It’s obvious that as economic productivity moves away from physical labour and towards knowledge, higher IQ people are the main beneficiaries. What, then, is to become of people on the left-hand side of the IQ curve, which by definition will always exist? Their chances of being productive and proudly active contributors to the economy and society diminish. This is a huge problem for society that ideology entirely bypasses.

          The more I think about it, the more Newton’s Third Law of Motion appears to apply also to social policy. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In social policy, the equal and opposite reaction seems to be ‘unintended/unforeseen consequences’.

          I have no glib answers.

        • To their credit, liberals like Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, and David Reich have begun preparing the Left for the coming deluge of breakthroughs in genomic research, and everything seems to be pointing toward confirmation of what the statistical data on race and IQ has been overwhelmingly saying (and the most of the scientific experts in the field have been saying) for years: That is, that IQ is mostly genes and not environment, and that the difference in IQ between “population groups” (a more descriptive term than “race”) can be explained by genetic differences. Reich, the leading figure in genomics research, has already warned the Left that “some findings will be discomfiting to contemporary sensibilities.” It is looking increasingly likely that advances in fields like genomics and molecular biology will ultimately render scientifically indefensible much of what the Left has preached about race and ethnicity for decades.

          • MCA says

            I’m actually very skeptical of genetic differences, but not for the usual SJW reasons. One big message from genetic studies of humans is that there has been a surprisingly large amount of gene flow among many societies for a long, long time, which will tend to damp out local genetic differences. Related to this, I’ve never heard a strong a priori reason why intelligence should be selected more strongly for in certain groups versus others (with the exception of Ashkenazi Jews). Finally, heritability of IQ is in the same ballpark as height, which we know is affected by environment as well (e.g. nutrition), and environmental differences are not hard to find in this topic, with childhood lead exposure being a big one.

            A key issue is mechanism. There is substantial evidence that IQ is affected by “genetic load”, the cumulative effect of many, many mutations of small effect which induce developmental instability etc., meaning that the actual genetic mechanism for intelligence may be a few key genes (which are quite possibly fixed across the human species) superimposed onto a background of mutational and epigenetic noise. Epigenetics provides a whole new avenue for IQ-environment links, with parental environment (possibly even grand-parental environment) altering offspring IQ.

            All in all, there’s way too many variables left unknown at this point to have ANY confidence in the eventual results, and I have yet to see any plausible hypothesis for why such genetic differences would exist in the first place nor be maintained by selection in the face of gene flow.

          • ccscientist says

            While all this may be true, most people do not get ahead by being smart but by being diligent and staying out of trouble. It is conscientiousness that does it, which is a habit rather than innate. Nothing ruins your life quite like going to jail or gambling your money away. This is what Asians have and no matter what the IQ of blacks if they changed certain habits they would be very much better off.

        • The elephant in the room is apt. Coleman is just another Sowell clone. We’ve been having these tired arguments about culture for a long time and they’ve not worked because they are not the correct answer.

          If culture is to blame, where does culture come from? Why is this culture different? Why is it so resistant to change?

      • V 2.0 says

        IQ should be no impediment to success. Every organization I have worked for has rewarded the ability to confidently plow ahead with a plan regardless of its merits much more than quality of outcome. This may sound like a joke but I have observed it consistently on many different occasions. The biggest enemies of African-Americans are the hand wringing social justice folk who have convinced them that they cannot take for themselves what is not given to them by their oppressors and encouraged them to see the problems in their culture as virtues.

      • Puggles says

        IQ is a strong predictor of delay gratification—that is, impulse control—may be one of the most important skills to learn to have a satisfying and successful life.

      • ccscientist says

        The difference between 100 and 103 is not enough to explain a group difference. It is culture. Japanese & Chinese are very focused on work and their kids and orderliness.

  17. Tyro says

    If white wealth was not built through theft of wealth from blacks, then whites would not have restricted blacks from using the legal benefits and mechanisms whites used to accumulate wealth (eg, unions and home ownership, especially suburban home ownership). It was simply assumed in US policy that if blacks benefited from political policies meant to enhance prosperity, this was coming at the expense of whites, so policies were designed to shut blacks out of those policies and programs

    • ccscientist says

      “assumed”. this does not mean that whites were better off when blacks were oppressed. The mostly white North was much better off than the South when blacks were mostly in the South, disproving the “theft” idea.

  18. Very good article. Expect to be attacked by the Left and their friends in the media immediately.

    • Rick says

      You shouldn’t see criticism of ideas as attacks. That’s how these things get fleshed out and made better.

      • ccscientist says

        I believe Teddy was referring to personal attacks, nor reasoned criticism.

  19. Great Article. Background to my comment. Neither parent grew up with in-door plumbing or electricity. Neither went past the 8th grade. They both grew up desperately poor in the Ozarks during the Depression.

    There is a saying down here in the south. “Poor people have poor ways”. There are two ways to interoperate that saying. Both correct.

  20. Ralph hodge says

    The only problem with that long article is that renowned economist have already proved you wrong with real numbers. Nice try, but real economists have proved you to be wrong. The United States government created the white middle class.

    • Paul Ellis says

      Interesting. Would you care to cite them, please?

    • David says

      I think he said that. Didn’t he mention that African-Americans missed out on the two-decade housing boom after WWII that created the white middle class? Black Americans missed the boom because change did not come until the 1960s.

      • Paul Ellis says

        Ah, yes. In the article: ‘After World War II, whites received the vast majority of government-backed mortgage loans. By the time the civil rights gains of the 1960s made these loans available to blacks, it was too late…’

        Did this proscription against blacks also extend to Asians? If so, how are they doing now, in comparison?

  21. Jason Solinsky says

    Black or White, wealth plays a surprisingly limited role in success in America. Indeed, most Black and White Americans have negligible wealth, and many of the rest have negligible wealth aside from a home. It would be more accurate to look at income as the mark of success, and wealth as the accumulation of income.

    • Bill says

      The problem is that “wealth” is predicated upon NOT spending beyond your means. You never become wealthy if you spend all that you have. I have seen people, regardless of skin tone, do some really stupid things like back in the early 2000s take all of their home equity out to buy an $80k car they wanted to “show” as their means of success. They dumped their wealth into a depreciating asset because their vision of wealth is different than mine. To them, wealth is the things they can show. To others, wealth is the memories they have (those that spend extravagantly on trips/vacations). To others still, wealth is the traditional measure of assets minus liabilities.

      • Fiscal Responsibility says

        Exactly. When a person is doing well financially, that is precisely the time they should reduce their cost of living to the absolute minimum, so they can maximize their cash flow with the aim of investing it, so that it can grow into true wealth. Otherwise they’re doomed to a financial plateau that will eventually fall into a decline, due to illness, retirement, retrenchment etc.

  22. Andy Ornberg says

    Articulate and thoughtful writing. You are going to go far, Mr. Hughes!

  23. Manzell Blakeley says

    Eh. Differences in spending habits are borne from the lack of wealth, not the cause of. There were no smartphones in the 60s or 70s.

    Furthermore, I find this to be a mischaracterization of Coates piece.

    This article isn’t all wrong… but some of the fundamental assumptions I think are incorrect.

    • @Blakeley

      “…spending habits are borne from lack of wealth.”

      Nope, the empirical evidence does not support this hypothesis. If you had read the article carefully you would have noticed that lack of wealth was one of the factors controlled for as a possible cause of spending habits. The gap of spending habits is similar at all levels of wealth, meaning that the lack of wealth cannot possibly be the cause.

      This is what I like about statistical evidence. Even though it is horrible at proving causal mechanisms, it is great at proving stupid theories wrong, like the one you have mindlessly parroted from leftist talking points here.

  24. Great analysis Hughes! I learned quite a bit by reading this.

    One of the most difficult things to explain to people is that some people are poor, but its not necessarily because they lack money. A huge part of the problem I see in the black communities is that there is no discussion about what it means to live a good life. Instead, there is just the blind pursuit of “visible products,” the incessant striving for all the brands rap stars say are the markers of status.

    In itself, the pursuit of “visible products” is not a problem. Greed is good. It’s one of the things that makes an economy tick. However, comfortable and luxurious living is a very shallow and ultimately vapid understanding of the good life. People who are successful come to that success driven by a desire for so much more than just a life of ease and contentment. They want to be the best at what they do and earn their place at the highest point in a hierarchy they can reasonably expect to achieve. This version of the good life means working hard to cultivate your skills, it means sacrificing short term gain and pleasures to accomplish long-term goals.

    In my estimation, I think rappers are in an ideal position to start this conversation. Tupac attempted to do this, but as much as he is idolized, there is a blatant disregard to the element of his legacy that was a bit more preachy and critical of black culture.

    Rappers can start by reading Aristotle and Plato. The good life is one that is happy and happiness is the life lived according to the activity of the soul oriented toward human excellence. What are the sources of human excellence? What makes them choice worthy? These are the questions and conversations the Western tradition is built on and that should be revived today.

    • Michiel says

      It’s telling that that other famous black rapper, Kanye West, who attempted to speak about these cultural issues (and had the temerity to be on Trump’s side) was immediately vilified for it by the left.

  25. Peter says

    I would like to see a follow up article discussing and describing black culture in greater detail. What has made black culture the way it is? What is it like as a lived day to day lifestyle?

  26. I do buy the argument that a lack of employment and structural conditions influence culture.

    Glenn Loury has said that if he held political power, or was the head of HUD, he would put 10 billion dollars into a program spreading wealth across 100 urban areas to boost infrastructure development, from in-home nursing to pre-K education and community programs to reduce crime and murder rates.

    John McWhorter said he would legalize all drugs and make contraception free.

    While perhaps the Left focuses too much on institutions, institutional changes can make a huge difference that free market conservatives refuse to touch. In this age of #WalkAway and Candace Owens, what is the right really offering? The complete hands-off approach of, say, a Thomas Sowell, precludes these welcome changes and stunts development. A synthesis between left and right must include policies designed to offer community and culture, not destroy it, as I would argue much of 20th century neoliberalism has done to Americans, particularly poor Americans.

    • @Blum

      “John McWhorter said he would legalize all drugs and make contraception free.”

      Got it. So what’s really holding blacks back is making babies and consequence-free drug use.

      With ‘allies’ like McWhorter and yourself, the black community truly needs no enemies.

      • correction: penalized drug use, not “consequence free drug use.”

      • Michiel says

        I don’t think it’s ever been shown that legalization of drugs leads to a rise in use (at least when paired with putting funds previously used for repression towards prevention, education and care), but it will result in a decline in incarceration (which would lead to a decline in single parent households I’m sure) as well as greatly reducing dealing- and addiction-related crime.

  27. Chris Martin says

    You can see so so much Sowell in his writing style, I love it.

  28. RELATED:

    “Starting at age one, officially designated “ghetto children,” most of them Muslim, will be placed in government-run daycare for at least 25 hours a week (excluding nap time.) There they will be taught “Danish values.””

    If you combine this piece by Coleman, with Amy Wax’s “bourgeois values” articles and the one above about Danish attempts to “align culture”… you have a very interesting conversation.

    A lot of ^ explanatory value… very few “pretty lies.”

  29. Katie says

    That last paragraph left me breathless. I will watch for anything new from Coleman from now on.

    From the article: “This ethical blind-spot is thrown into sharp relief by imagining instead that it was a loved one who was making disastrous financial decisions. Would you withhold criticism from them for fear that you’d be ‘blaming the victim’? Would you feed this person story after story meant to confirm their belief that society had caused all their problems? Or would you view it as your duty—a duty born out of your love for that person—to point out their self-defeating behaviors and encourage them to make wiser decisions?”

    This is the thing I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and the source of the gap/disparity. It’s the thing that frustrates me the most about conservatives and progressives. How many progressives assume that my desire to NOT “help” the disadvantaged in any way, shape, or form is because of my greed? And how many progressives when hearing my views on the matter, would insist that I was lying and just wanted to hide my greed?

    My axiomatic view is that the goal for each person is to be “fulfilled”, which leads to real happiness. This fulfillment which leads to happiness can only come about when we are stretching ourselves, making hard decisions, learning discipline, doing the difficult thing, becoming more than we think we can be. Since humans are naturally resistant to those things, those things usually only happen when our circumstances force us into it. “Helping” people can actually be oppressing them with our compassion.

    I learned this lesson first hand. I always had such a tender heart. I cried when I saw people begging on the side of the road. Every charity commercial sent me into a tailspin. My compassion for people meant I wanted to do something, anything, to “fix it”. I had a very close family friend who had lost his job (again) but could work out of his house freelance. He wasn’t making enough to keep the mortgage paid. So when he and his wife got news they were being foreclosed on, my heart just broke for them. Not only were they losing their home, they were losing the ability to make money since they couldn’t do the work from an apartment. We bought the house they were living in, and since we couldn’t afford two mortgages, we sold our house and moved into the upstairs of their house and they lived in the basement. I was so relieved (and so were they) that we were able to “rescue” them from this terrible situation.

    Fast forward eleven years. Nothing has changed with their situation. They still aren’t making enough to keep bills paid, even without a mortgage. She hasn’t gone to work despite having no kids at home and being a medical professional previously. He is still struggling by on the minimum amount of work that he gets. There has been no conversation or realization of the very important reason no one wants to work with him for long (because again, “compassion”).

    I now understand that my desire to “fix it” caused this couple I love to be stuck in just barely tolerable circumstances, whereas if I had let it go, they would have HAD to make different decisions. She would be working, or he would have started a new business or had the conversation with someone where he finds out what he’s doing that makes him unemployable. My intervention stunted their growth, prevented circumstances from pushing them up the hill instead of just barely keeping them above water. I love this couple, and I hate that they had to be the lesson in which I learned that sometimes compassion means letting people extricate themselves from their own circumstances, no matter how painful it is to watch. If I truly loved them, I would have been willing to suffer MY OWN discomfort in watching the floundering, knowing it would bring good to them in the long run.

    It’s the same in society. When disadvantaged people are not “helped” with the minimum of public assistance, they end up better off, and the world benefits because of the the new thing they bring to the table. All of the compassion-driven programs we try to implement in order to right the wrongs of the past are literally like “helping” a butterfly out of a cocoon.

  30. Heisenberg says

    Coleman knocks it out of the park once again. Bravo 🙂

  31. I have to say that your parable of the pedestrian makes a salient point that I hadn’t considered very clearly before. I think I had an inkling of the idea, but this gave it some real form that I can work with. Thanks!

  32. Craig says

    So, in short, it is easier to blame the system for your problems then to look in the mirror

  33. Amphi says

    I have two bits of personal insight into the issue of inheritance and white wealth, one for and one against, coming from a well-off white guy with wealthy parents.

    First is a strike against inheritance as a major mode of gaining success – I’m almost 40, with a good job and a mortgage, and my parents are still alive and healthy. Nor do I think I’m the exception – even those people who get inheritances usually won’t get them until later in life, at which point they already have complete their education, gotten a job, bought a home, etc. In the past, when people had kids earlier, this would have been even MORE the case, as your parents would have only been 20 years older than you. Hell, half of my *grandparents* are still alive, AND my folks waited quite a while before having me and my sister. A fat inheritance may help you retire well, but it’s not going to show up before then except in unusual/tragic circumstances which are fortunately rare.

    Second is an underappreciated mechanism of wealth propagation – insulation from debt. As mentioned, my folks are well-off (not “Ten houses and a private island”, but “big house, nice car, frequent vacations”). During my childhood, education, and general life, this has allowed me to evade many of the traps which befall others without those means – I didn’t need to work during HS and college (so I could focus on coursework), I didn’t have to take out student loans, I didn’t have to pay for my car or car insurance, and I could take risks or lower-paying early strategies (e.g. grad school) because I knew I always had a buffer I could fall back on. Those early advantages are likely to pay off far more handsomely than any subsequent inheritance, and far sooner – that is to say, my life outcomes would be / were superior by my folks spending that money early versus saving it for my (eventual) inheritance even with interest.

    If we use a car race analogy, income is how fast you can go and wealth is how many miles worth of fuel you have, but parental resources are like having a good pit crew & resources. All the speed and gas won’t help if you blow a tire on the first lap and your pit crew takes forever to replace it.

    • Paul Ellis says

      Two good examples, well made. Observations:

      1. You’ll inherit anyway, even though as a result of your own efforts you’re unlikely to need it, so the wealth will stay in your family. You might well pass on this inherited wealth to your kids in a similar way. Meanwhile, it benefits from asset inflation and compound interest.

      2. What you describe is not risk reduction per se, but an insulation from risk allied to a reduction in the consequences of taking risks, coupled with freedom from distraction. These are advantages that I think most thoughtful parents ambitious for their kids would bestow on them if they could. You were lucky; yours could.

      3. You actually worked, rather than being an idle bastard living off the fat of your expected inheritance. Maybe you inherited this characteristic?

      4. Your car race analogy: spot on.

  34. Don’t have a lot of time to address everything I’d like to, but just wanted to point out that the Japanese that were put in camps did get reparations for that in the tune of about 20K (42K today) per person. It’s nice to have the liberty to say “well money doesn’t mean that much” when you’ve already got it. Author does make some good points though, and enjoy the debate.

    • Yes, but those reparations went to the actual folk who suffered. Reparations generations down the track are a rather different thing. Especially as the most obvious measure of the net cost of slavery to the descendants thereof is the difference in income, life expectancy etc between them and the current inhabitants of West Africa.

  35. tony tony says

    Average black IQ is 85 whereas white is about 100 jewish 110 asian 105 that explains black’s situation the world over. no solution…if you change the genes(which cause IQ) then you change the race of the person. so blacks will always be where they are why write a novel? two letters: I Q.

    • @ tony tony

      Ah! that old chestnut. Yes, certainly to a large extent perhaps Intelligence is heritable therefore likely there will be race-based group differences. But this doesn’t stand up at all.


      There are about 4 billion people called “Asian” and there is simply no single race called “Asian”.

      “jewish 110”

      What race are they?

      As to “whites versus blacks” – well if “eventually” this actually does turn out to be true – the answer is simple. Both should shag each other. Resulting babies might for sometimes be somewhat lower in IQ but be physically somewhat stronger and faster.

  36. I’ve come to believe deeply that no amount of Govt money, and no Govt official or dept on any level (fed, state, local) can save an individual American from their own horrible life decisions.

  37. The analogy of the “The Parable of the Pedestrian” is incomplete. An accurate analogy would be that it wasn’t a random reckless stranger who ran over the pedestrian, but that the woman in question was beaten up, intentionally, by members of her own community. Now the woman who was beaten up has made a choice to get better. But her recovery is hampered by the fact that her community refuses to make their town accessible. Their reasoning is that they have apologized profusely to the woman and now it is too much to ask them to make expensive changes like making walkways and buildings accessible. So the woman’s earning capacity is greatly reduced. But she soldiers on. She keeps going to the hospital. The doctors there go through the motions of helping her, but you can tell they aren’t too interested in rehabilitating her. So her recovery is again slowed down and that too affects her wealth building capacity.

    Slavery and racism weren’t an accident, but were the result of conscious choices by rational individuals who were motivated by their own well being. An analogy that substitutes those choices with a random chance event like a hit and run only serves to take away the agency of those rational actors. The end result is that the rational actors have been completely freed from taking any responsibility of the consequences of their choices.

    • An injustice, to be sure, but the end result for the victim doesn’t change… right? I took that to be the author’s point.

  38. sestamibi says

    Use a dollar sign $. It makes the text a lot easier to read.

  39. Andrew Lazarus says

    Math fail here. The article says that black incomes quintuples from 1939 to 1960 while white incomes only tripled. That’s irrelevant to wealth, which comes from the accumulation of income. So, using the article’s own numbers, in 1939 the average white family had $652 more to save (wealth accumulation) while in 1960 the white family had over $2000 more to save. That is, the wealth gap was growing faster in 1960 than in 1939. Oops.

    This is particularly unfortunate because it’s the article’s ONLY attempt to wrestle with the housing discrimination that it can’t deny. Not only did the white family have more money to save and invest (and the gap grew every year at an increasing rate!), but they were able to purchase an asset that appreciates. Middle-class blacks frozen out of the real estate market by racism were left to buy a nice car with their disposable income, an asset that depreciated rapidly. And the author ridicules buying the car, into the bargain.

    There are many holes that need patching up.

  40. @Lazarus

    The author’s point was not about absolute differences in the wealth gap but that blacks had made gains at a faster rate than whites in that time period. That’s it. The point is to push back at the inaccurate narrative that black wealth was in decline.

  41. Nikhil Rao says

    Holy shit, how brilliant can an undergraduate be? One often hears of young prodigies in math and music but a social scientist this wise, humane and this young is uncommon. Move over Mr. Coates, Coleman Hughes is here.

  42. Johan Swede says

    Everything is culture. Gypsies arrived in Sweden 400 years ago. Jews 200 years ago. Both groups have been persecuted. Today the Jews are the richest and the gypsies the poorest. Almost impossible to change ethnic culture.
    Coleman is the future. Coates is done.

  43. Pingback: African-American Writer Demolishes Liberal Myths About Black-White Wealth Gap | saboteur365

  44. Not being American, and knowing little of Carribean history I might have this wrong and welcome clarification, but this paragraph seems to contradict itself:

    “Nor can historical racism explain wealth disparities between groups of the same race. A 2015 survey of wealth in Boston found that the median black household had only 8 dollars of wealth. Newsweek reported this fact under the heading “Racism in Boston.” But the 8 dollar figure only pertained to black Bostonians of American ancestry; black Bostonians of Caribbean ancestry had 12,000 dollars of wealth, despite having identical rates of college graduation, only slightly higher incomes, and being equally black in the same city.”

    Is the author saying American blacks (by whom I assume he necessarily means the ancestors of African slaves) and Caribbean blacks (who I am assuming are more compsed of more recently arrived free migrants?) are equally victim to the legacies of American slavery and historical racism?

    I would have thought Caribbeans doing much better financially could be explained precisely because they are NOT necessarily burdened by the same inherited impacts of slavery, or at least, not necessarily to the same extent, as blacks of American ancestry are. Happy to be schooled.

    • By that I mean, while both groups are perhaps typically ancestors of slaves, they are not both anecestors of slaves in the US, and that may be an important historical difference. The presence and reasons for arrival of Caribbeans in the US may also be an important historical and possibly economic difference.

    • ccscientist says

      I believe the point is that the culture of the carib blacks differs whereas they were also slaves at one time and also suffered from racism in the US, so current racism cannot explain different outcomes.

  45. Denise says

    This article seems to be more of a “left” versus “right” opinion on black Americans versus an actual discussion of “culture” being responsible for the wealth disparity in America.

    First – the author did not define what spending habits that black Americans supposedly have that make them more susceptible to not acquiring wealth. Various studies (especially consumer reports) have shown that black Americans do not spend more money on average than whites on frivolous things so the idea that spending habits is to blame for the wealth disparity is not sound.

    Also, the author ignored the fact that the three authors he cites at the beginning of this piece, and especially Coates, also stated that black incomes rose in the 1960s. However the author of this piece failed to include the fact that black Americans during that era, because of housing discrimination, had to pay more in rent/housing costs than whites. None of them blamed slavery itself for wealth disparity and primarily blamed the systematic oppression of blacks during the 20th century and especially housing discrimination, which didn’t substantially decrease until the late 1970s/early 19080s.

    Black neighborhood rents were typically 3 times higher than they were for whites for worse housing conditions between 1950 and 1980. And when black people actually were able to purchase homes, they were not able to use traditional mortgages, which this author admitted, yet he failed to state the fact that the contract leasing system and other schemes blacks had to use to purchase homes, also made them pay 3 times more for a home on a monthly basis due to interests/fees than whites.

    Studies show that black people still are charged more in fees/interest than whites, even with the same credit ratings as whites. Black homes are worth less if they are in majority black neighborhoods, no matter the school ratings or crime rates of the area (even if they are good black homes are worth less). Black people primarily spend money on rent, utilities, and insurance – not frivolous retail items or entertainment.

    Income is not wealth.

    Assets an equity are wealth.

    Home equity is still the primary factor in wealth statistics for individuals or by race in America. Less black people own homes, this is why black people have less wealth. And when they do, if they live in a black neighborhood, their home is worth automatically less (less equity). If too many of them move to a white neighborhood – white flight will occur and it will become a black neighborhood (white flight still occurs and it occurs even when Asians move to a majority white neighborhood – see John’s Creek in metro Atlanta). And the cycle continues of less equity in homes.

    This article was a very simplified opinion piece and didn’t look at all the factors the authors he mentioned discussed. Also bringing in immigrants and other people to try to compare the black experience to theirs is odd considering that there has never been a systematic denial of any immigrants from purchasing property through the 1980s. Contrary to what the author writes in this piece, housing discrimination and the lack of mortgages/home financing opportunities for black people extended through the 1980s, which was mentioned and included in the works he cited by the other authors he mentioned.

    Because of the above, this seems like more of an opinion piece and common conservative thought about black Americans – that they are inherently worse than other Americans (inferior in some way – be it spending habits or other behaviors – this is actually a racist view by the purist definition). This piece unfortunately reminded me of many conservative propaganda pieces and note I’m neither a liberal nor conservative, but I’ve read the works this authors cited and he misrepresented them in this piece.

    • Ann Baker says

      I agree. This is a very arrogant piece, for one because it suggests we can just verbally be walked through what ought to be matter of data analysis. And who could even read such small differences in spending habits (costume jewelry? really?) and draw a conclusion? Only someone complete unfamiliar with actual research could do that. For two, you should be cautious before confirming viewpoints racists have always held. Science is ongoing and we tend to jump on anything we can to confirm our dislike for groups, without looking for disconfirmation. (The topic of habits is not offensive, but the commentators being so happy to get support for their pre-existing excuses for poverty for just blacks is another sign that there is no economics here at all.)

    • Johan Swede says

      @Denise…Strange…If you say something good about an ethnic group it’s OK, even great. If you criticize, it’s racist.
      Do you mean all ethnic groups are the same culturally?
      A culture has nothing do do with the color of your skin. I have an adopted sister from India. Her culture is 100% Swedish. 0% Indian.

      • Denise says

        Johan, I did not say all ethnic groups are culturally the same.

        I agree culture has nothing to do with color. I am culturally a black American. A black person in Nigeria and I do not share the same culture.

        What is racist is believing that there is some inherent part of someone based on their demographic (like black Americans and our culture) that is inferior or superior. I stated explicitly in my comment that the author did not define black culture and how it relates to spending habits. I noted, which can be googled at consumer reports, that there have been studies and reviews of black American’s spending habits and they are not different from white people. Only thing we spend more on is utilities and insurance.

        I also noted the fact that the author misrepresented the authors he cited – in that he did not mention that rents/housing costs and mortgage/lending schemes took up a significant portion of black families’ incomes in the 1960s-1980s. The authors he cited spoke on those things in their work. Black people were forced to spend their higher incomes during that era on higher housing costs. Whites did not have the higher housing costs that black families did. They had more disposable incomes and opportunities to build wealth. Blacks having to pay more for these schemes and higher rents were denied opportunities for building wealth or saving more of their income.

        I could say plenty of “bad” things about black people – but spending habits of black people in America are not drastically different on non-necessities than other groups of people. The author does not provide any proof of this in his piece and instead is doing a typical conservative political rant that is sure to garner him some views/support from more conservative leaning people. That is fine for him as I’ll admit, I’m rather conservative as a black person myself – but I am very knowledgeable about my demographic from an historic perspective to the present time and I know we don’t spend more money than other people and I know about what “black culture” is from an historical basis. The author does not seem to know. He is just saying the same things that other conservative writers say on this subject.

  46. Be n says

    Booker T Washington was an illiterate slave who became wealthy and highly regarded after abolition. What cultural changes did he make and advocate for? His book “Up from Slavery” documents the attitudes and behaviours he adopted and came to teach at his school. He was supported by both races in his efforts, raised thousands out of poverty and remains a role model for anyone seeking to do the hard work of achieving the same.

    • Denise says

      Note, I am a black American and focus my own personal study specifically on black history and culture in America as a very intense hobby of mine.

      Booker T. Washington was and still is a cultural icon for black Americans. He created many business leagues and was a huge supporter of “social uplift” for black Americans who took his philosophy and attempted to put it into action. His goal was to “prove” to white Americans and to blacks that black people could do well themselves as long as they were left to build without white interference (i.e. negative terroristic acts of racism).

      However, often when black Americans tried to follow Washington’s philosophy, they often were met by white terrorism, whereas whites across the south especially (but this also occurred in the north in a less violent manner) would basically steal everything the black man/woman earned because law enforcement did not protect black people. This is called economic lynching. It was very prevalent in this country and was actually written about by Coates in the article that Coleman cited and misrepresented in this essay.

      Also, as I noted in my post above – this author, Coleman, is not discussing black culture at all. Spending is not a part of black culture historically as black people have always had less money and always had to pay more for housing and basic necessities, when income rose – so did rent and utilities – black people always paid more for housing than whites usually 2-3 times more even though they made 30-50% less than whites income-wise. Consumer reports today shows that black people spend the same on average for entertainment and other non-necessities as white Americans.

      Washington was heavily supported by black Americans even though his advice and direction were always a risk due to factors mentioned above (economic terrorism and lack of protection by law enforcement). Due to this, other black activists like WEB DuBois came into prominence being he argued that without equal protection of the law that no matter what black people built/accumulated, it could easily be taken from us due to this terrorism and lack of protection by the law – so the focus for activism became one of civil and social rights, including access to housing and equal protection under the law regardless of race. DuBois and Washington and nearly all early black leaders/individuals agreed with Washington in that we should educate ourselves and be entrepreneurs and focus on community and social uplift via hard work – this is a tenet of black American culture.

      Neither the author (Coleman) nor most of the posters on the comments here seem well versed in black American history and culture. Cultural tenets of black America do not include spending ourselves into poverty.

      • Cheester says

        “DuBois and Washington and nearly all early black leaders/individuals agreed with Washington in that we should educate ourselves and be entrepreneurs and focus on community and social uplift via hard work – this is a tenet of black American culture.”

        Just because Dubois and Washington advocated and exemplified the value of education and community does not make it a tenet of black American culture. Black students spend far less time studying than their Asian counterparts, which is a problem that starts with parents, or should I say single mother, since fewer than 3 in 10 black children have a father present, which is an absolute tragedy that you seem to have no interest in mentioning. I suppose the fathers must have more important places to adhere to the tenet of community than their with own children. If you have spent time in poor black communities, you’d have to be delusional or dishonest to say that the culture there, sans racism, would bring the people and community into prosperity.

        • Denise says

          Cheester, as I noted, most of the commenters on this piece and the author himself are not well versed in black American culture.

          Culture is an historical tradition of patterns and behaviors of a group of people. Dubois and Washington were and still are cultural icons in black America. Their tenets and programs were adopted in the 1800s and continue to this day. Access to quality education and receipt of said education has always been a cultural tenet of black America since the 1700s. The earliest civil rights/access issues for black Americans was advocated for soon after the Revolution by free black people who fought for access to education. They were thwarted and in the 1800s nearly every state in the northern part of the US disallowed free black children from being educated.

          However, after the successes of the climax of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, educational achievement has risen more for black Americans than any other ethnic group in this country. Comparing black people in this country to Asians, like the author did, is immature and disingenuous. If you want to compare black people to anyone, you compare us to ourselves. We are much more educated today than our demographic was 50 years ago.

          On families – facts and reality show that even with more out of wedlock births over the past 50 years that black educational achievement is at an all time high. Over the past 25 years crime in predominantly black neighborhoods had significantly decreased. Studies also show that there has been no negative indications of poor educational achievement of whites or other demographics since their rates of out of wedlock births have risen on a percentage basis faster than black Americans.

          I grew up in a poor black neighborhood. I am black. I know my father and have always known him even though he and my mother were not married when I was born. Fatherlessness is not the issue that you all believe it is in black America. One’s parents not being married, doesn’t mean a child doesn’t have a relationship with their father. Studies show that non-custodial/single black fathers spend more time with their children than other demographic’s of fathers in this country. Education and entrepreneurship has increased in black America since the 1950s and 1960s. Again, these are cultural tenets of black America – other cultural tenets include activism and having very tight knit families.

      • Emblem14 says


        Your constructive criticism is much needed. Coleman is close to veering into a typical Larry Elder / Shelby Steele style black conservative point of view that simply admonishes blacks for cultural self-sabotage and political ignorance while minimizing the effects of structural forces.

        There’s a tendency for those who disagree that government is the solution to Black uplift, to downplay structural forces for the very reason Coleman attempts to in his piece. The idea is that if people believe public policy is responsible for group disadvantage, only public policy can fix it – which appeals to common sense and the framework of restorative justice. But if you think the govt can’t really help black people, this POV is a distraction at best, and supports the leftist worldview that is counter to notions of self determination. In resisting that narrative, some are inclined to downplay the impact of structural forces to make it easier to swallow that the only plausible way forward are more “conservative” cultural/economic solutions.

        This doesn’t have to be so – one can fully admit to the unvarnished history of structural oppression of Blacks while still making a strong case that government intervention both will not and cannot be the salvation Black people should peg their hopes on.

        Praise and criticism of this piece is falling along typical partisan lines, which is never a good sign. When you’ve made an excellent argument, usually your critics ignore you – instead critics of this piece on twitter and elsewhere have been pouncing on it for (what they claim are) inaccuracies, omissions and motivated misinterpretations of research. Also not a good sign.

        Just because Coleman writes quite well and quotes a lot of Sowell doesn’t mean he’s advancing the ball.

      • You pay more for housing because your credit scores are worse than whites. Even adjusted for the same credit scores you default more which is why computer banking programs still penalize blacks.

        • Denise says

          J, was credit scores a factor in the 1950s and 1960s in regards to rent and are they in regards to that today? I’ll answer – they were not. And today black people with the same credit scores as whites still pay more in interest than a white person.

  47. Calvin X Hobbes says

    This is a very thoughtful article, Mr. Hughes. Well done.

    Here’s a suggestion for another article. You can address the many-faceted absurdity surrounding the N-word, as for example illustrated by what happened to the Papa John’s guy. We’re supposed to think that hearing about some white person using this word in private conversation is “deeply hurtful” to people who abhor “racism” and especially to blacks, as though these people had the mentality of children who are profoundly emotionally disturbed. However, it’s obvious that leftists and many blacks take great joy in seeing a white person destroyed for violating the N-word taboo. There’s absolutely nothing “hurtful” to them about this.

    I think you could find a lot of insightful things to say about this madness, Mr. Hughes.

  48. Emmanuel says

    excellent article.
    The idea that wealth is not stolen by created by industrious individuals and smart public policies was developped by the great British economist Peter Bauer, whose works are well worth reading.
    As for the idea that wealth was created by slavery, especially Black slavery, it is completely stupid : until the 19th century, slavery was a universal institution. So, if slavery meant wealth, every society should be wealthy, especially African and Arab societies which enslaved many more Black people than European societies ever did. I mean, for every wealthy country that once enslaved Black people, you have dozens of poor countries that did the same.

    • @ Emmanuel

      “especially African and Arab societies which enslaved many more Black people than European societies ever did.”

      How many more?

      ” until the 19th century, slavery was a universal institution”

      Not really. It really, really wasn’t. Else do prove your assertion. Try looking at how much slavery there was in China, India and Russia for example.

      “As for the idea that wealth was created by slavery”

      It was. Heck of a lot of it. This is why Arabs were well into it. And why the Europeans too. It had to o with money.

      ” I mean, for every wealthy country that once enslaved Black people, you have dozens of poor countries that did the same.”

      Name them.

      • Emmanuel says

        1/ In his book ” les traites négrières, essai d’histoire globale”, French historian Olivier Petret Grenouilleau gives the following numbers : 11 million African slaves taken out of Africa by Europeans between 1450 and 1869, 17 million by Muslims (most of them Arabs ) between 650 and 1920 and in the same time 28 million African used as slaves by other Africans. That last number is of course a rough approximation, however European and Arab travellers and later administratives who have described pre-colonial and early colonial Africa have always insisted on how widespread slavery was there.

        Furthermore, I would like to add that European societies were the first to abolish slavery. Morocco only did it in 1930 and Mauritania in 1980. Legal and official slavery lasted in the Muslim world one century more than in the Western world. Furthermore, if you read the reports on modern slavery published yearly by the UN, you will see that modern slavery, still widespread in the Sahel area and a few other places is nowadays a specificity of the Muslim world.

        2/ Regarding the universality of slavery, I advise you to read the chapter “race and slavery” of American economist Thomas Sowell (himself a great grandchild of slaves, if I remember correctly) ´s book Race and Culture. He provides as many examples of it as you can wish. I know very little about Chinese history, however if I am to trust the wikipedia page slavery in China, it was not unknown there. Same thing about slavery in India, but I would like to add that Gujarati traders were very involved in the African slave trade as investors.
        As for Russia, serfdom was abolished in 1861. Before that poor people were literally the property of wealthy landowners.

        3/ Regarding my statement about wealth and slavery, what I meant was that slavery cannot explain the modern difference between poor and wealthy countries because both categories practised it. On the long term, slavery does not create “the wealth of nations”.

        4/ Good examples of very poor countries were slavery was widespread not long ago and still exists in some places would be Yemen, Chad, Sudan, Niger, Mauritania, Libya, Central African Republic, Somalia and other such lovely places.

        • 1 – Estimates: “11 million African slaves taken out of Africa by Europeans between 1450 and 1869, 17 million by Muslims”

          “reports on modern slavery” Not equivalent to slave trade.

          “Morocco” Became an independent country in 1956.

          2 – “He provides as many examples of it as you can wish.”

          In near modern terms – nothing was equivalent to the African slave trade. No matter who carried it out – Africans, Arabs or Europeans. Although Arabs took fair few Europeans.

          3. ” I meant was that slavery cannot explain the modern difference between poor and wealthy countries”

          3. Not most of it. That is down to colonialism and Industrialization [Technology] and better civilization.

          But in itself Slavery was extremely profitable business. Tis why it lasted so long.


          “Yemen, Chad, Sudan, Niger, Mauritania, Libya, Central African Republic, Somalia ”

          It doesn’t really exist anymore – false equivalency. And these poor countries were at the abusive end of it. And not the ones who benefited.

          “and other such lovely places.”

          Yes they are. What problems have you got? Yemen and Libya in particular for their architectural ruins and rich cultural history.

      • Johan Swede says

        @ Reading Nomad… knowledge is needed if you want credibility!
        1861 Russia freed 40 million “serfs” – Russian slaves.
        Today the number of untouchables, “dalits” in India amounts to 200 millions.
        “Ya-Tou” – slave girls in China was very common. Even today poor girls is sold in rural areas. Also, being a “coolie” wasn’t much better than being a slave.

        Reading Nomad…you demand proof of others. Strange you don’t have the same requirements on yourself…

        • @ Johan Swede

          “knowledge is needed if you want credibility!”

          Lol! Why do people do this? Why? Why act like an utter schmuck! You could have simply told me what you wanted to offload without the condescension.

          “1861 Russia freed 40 million “serfs” – Russian slaves.”

          A form of slavery. Yet not all serfs were slaves. Feudalism itself does not equate to slave trade. This is the nearest thing to slave trade – yet it nothing like it.

          “Today the number of untouchables, “dalits” in India amounts to 200 millions.”

          Not slaves. Even most of the serfs were slaves but most dalits were not. It was Muslims who brought slave trade to India.

          “Ya-Tou” – slave girls in China was very common.

          Yes. In some form or other slavery existed in China. But nothing like the slave trades Arabs and Europeans carried out.

          – –

          “you demand proof of others”

          If someone makes an iffy claim then you can ask them to provide proof.

          “Strange you don’t have the same requirements on yourself”

          Strange how I have not got this wrong… hmm. Egg on your face?

          = * =

          Son – this is the fucking internet – “knowledge” is cheap. All one had to do was google China, India and Russia – that is what you did and that is what I did.

          Difference? You pretended to have command over the subject which you clearly do not possess. And proceeded to be a complete bell end.

          In all three places slavery was NOT an equivalent institution as the Slave Trade. Go back to my comments and that is the point. And that Slave Trade ACTUALLY was profitable. Hence why it carried on.

          • Friendly Neighborhood says

            Since this is, indeed, the fucking internet, consider that your googling of various keywords does not, in fact, produce in you anything resembling “knowledge” – at least in any strict sense of the word. Mr. Swede was correct in calling out your lack of credibility. You seem to believe that “Nope! You’re wrong! I’m right” is some kind of valid refutation of a point made which you do not care for. You’re incorrect. If you were possessed of any actual, relevant knowledge you would have made it clear in at least one of your glib responses. You have not. I therefore suggest that you find something better to do with your obviously ample time. And while you do so, perhaps you should give some thought as to why you find perfectly reasonable and civil comments so disturbingly offensive that you feel the need to respond in an insulting manner complete with anatomically euphemistic name-calling. You’re a cyber-windbag and you need to relax and take a rest. My, how enjoyably easy it is to type abusively at some unknown also-ran!


          • @ Friendly Neighborhood

            Lol! This is just way too funny. And it is simply priceless how you cannot see the irony. I love it when an utter twat posts a message like this.

            So – tell me – what is it that you think I got wrong in the above exchange? Because from your response – the enmity came through but nothing else. So what exactly is that from the actual exchange I got wrong?

            I am guessing NOTHING. And I am actually right.

            – –

            ” Mr. Swede was correct in calling out your lack of credibility.”

            How so? My argument stands and it still stands:

            There was nothing like the slave trade which Arabs started and in which Europeans partook too.

            Nothing Mr. Swede said refuted this point. And what he’d done was a quick googling and lobbed a few things in. And he was dishonest about it. And enmity started from him too. Look:

            “@ Reading Nomad… knowledge is needed if you want credibility!”

            There was no need for this. But if you are going to be a twat… then you got it coming.

            – –

            ” You seem to believe that “Nope! You’re wrong! I’m right” is some kind of valid refutation of a point made which you do not care for.”

            In all your nonsensical rant – you seem to have forgotten to mention which point I got wrong.

            – –

            “If you were possessed of any actual, relevant knowledge you would have made it clear in at least one of your glib responses. ”

            Yeah! precisely my point! If I had got anything wrong then you would have refuted my point rather than this charade.

            – –

            “as to why you find perfectly reasonable and civil comments so disturbingly offensive”

            This is NOT civil:

            “@ Reading Nomad… knowledge is needed if you want credibility!”

            Especially as I went on to own that twat [I mean you – as this is you who has deceptively come back isn’t it?]

            This is the opposite of civil.

            – –

            “You’re a cyber-windbag and you need to relax and take a rest. ”

            You are just projecting sonny. I am laughing all the way, knowing full well how I have pushed your button that you came back after such a while STILL with your sore arse in hand.

            Lol! Now do fuck off! And let it go…. I clearly gave you a verbal beat down… again.

            Now try to move on with your pathetic life.


          • DonkeyBoner says

            You ever had an honest-to-god, good-old-fashioned beat down? You know, like without a keyboard to act as an intermediary?

          • @ DonkeyBoner

            You are back! Lol! You cannot let it go, can you.

            “You ever had an honest-to-god, good-old-fashioned beat down?”

            Plenty of time – I can take a beating. I am slight of build and gobby and somewhat provocative. Hasn’t stopped me though.

            – –

            But I do like how you have, inadvertently, admitted to have taken a verbal beating here though. Whatever your true designation is.

          • DoucheChill says

            Everything. All of it. You’ve “got wrong” each and every syllable you’ve expressed here. There. See Mr. Cooper’s post for an example of evidence. Then try harder.

          • @ DoucheChill

            I am enjoying these pseudonyms. Pity it doesn’t stretch to the comments.

            “Everything. All of it. You’ve “got wrong” each and every syllable you’ve expressed here.”

            Nah! This makes you a hypocrite. You should try to follow the advice you dole to others:

            [[“You seem to believe that “Nope! You’re wrong! I’m right” is some kind of valid refutation of a point made which you do not care for. You’re incorrect. If you were possessed of any actual, relevant knowledge you would have made it clear in at least one of your glib responses. You have not. I therefore suggest that you find something better to do with your obviously ample time.”]]

            Given that you have failed to counter argue a single point and YET you seem to think merely denial equals to refutation, therefore you have failed massively. But you have gotten across the “feeling” that you are somehow in disagreement with me and cannot express it in words as you are a complete fraud.

            Therefore you also prove my point 100% that doing a bit of googling and pretending that you possess knowledge is dishonest. And especially trying to be condescending towards others with it. And anyone who is actually clever – clearly like me – will catch you out. And you will be reduced to this pathetic state.

            – –

            “There. See Mr. Cooper’s post for an example of evidence. ”

            Sure. But once more Daddy O why don’t you act upon your own advice and say act it out… teach me!

            – –

            Lol! I can boot you here to Timbuktu – keep em coming son.

  49. D.B. Cooper says

    Coleman Hughes has, again, produced a well-constructed argument, stringing together a conservation of words, cogently and convincingly. His insufferable tendency towards truth is enviable. It is a profound piece of writing, to be sure.

    My only serious criticism of this piece is that, whether by omission or commission, Hughes pulls up right at the end, and I think his analysis suffers because of it. Consider the following:

    It is no longer primarily racism that holds blacks back, but a set of cultural elements… some which are mysterious in origin—that are ill-suited for success in a modern information economy.

    After identifying a number of confounding cultural elements, Hughes ends his list with “some which are mysterious in origin.” The “mysterious in origin” clue is a bit on the nose, isn’t it? Mysterious origins is the way you speak when the horse you sold, to a man you don’t know, dies on the way home.

    It’s difficult to say for sure why Hughes is so purposely evasive, here; but I think there’s better than even money he’s referring to intelligence with its “mysterious origins” being the nature vs. nurture debate – or, what’s left of the debate. It’s starting to look like a rout. If so, it’s worth asking, “why the obscure exposition?”

    My guess? Hughes is all too familiar with the blood that has hitherto been spilt over discussions on ‘race & intelligence’. Just the idea of publicly tethering yourself to that feral exchange, sober critique or not, is enough to make anyone anemic. Unfortunately, any discussion on the black underclass that respects both logic and honesty, must stop with the incessant pearl-clutching and deal with the fact that cognitive differences are looking real, important, and stubborn more and more every day.

    As I have repeatedly stated, Mr. Hughes is a supremely talented man with more in front of him than most, but statements like “No element of culture harms black wealth accrual more directly than spending patterns,” are more accurately describing a symptom, than the disease. People don’t play the lottery because they’re poor, they’re poor because they’re bad with money as evidenced by them doing stupid shit like playing the lottery. Trust me, I’m steeped in the art of stupidity.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help but feel it’s intellectually dishonest to ignore the wealth of data on genes/IQ, while rhetorically tying yourself in knots to explain away behaviors and outcomes endemic to the black community. But, sadly, this is standard practice in academia, or so I’ve read.

    It’s as if the intelligentsia would have you believe that society is better off with a lie. But ask yourself, “what does it say about a person who is willing to believe – and have you believe – absolutely anything, but the truth?

    Is it too much to expect reasonable people – presumably, dare I say, intelligent people – to have some decency about themselves without aborting dangerous truths for the protection of a core narrative, or worse, the brief convenience of an intransigent lie?

    Of course, other causal forces are at play. That’s no surprise. Mr. Hughes has done a Hell of a job expounding on many of them in his articles. Environmental effects on the black underclass are important. They should be rigorously analyzed, discussed, and debated to the extent they have some explanatory power on the subject. But the same should be true of intelligence and no honest person would say otherwise.

    At this point in the debate, any discussion that avoids the overwhelming weight of evidence for ethnic differences in intelligence is an unreliable guide to the facts. Ignoring decades of mounting evidence like it’s a communicable disease is not a strategy, or a solution.

    What’s more, there seems to be a growing consensus for the idea that within the coming future scientist will have the ability to genetically increase a person’s IQ. Richard Haier, a neuroscientist and professor emeritus at UC, Irvine has been quoted as saying, “The concept that intelligence can be increased is reasonable… When the brain mechanisms that underlie intelligence are understood, it is theoretically possible that those mechanisms can be tweaked to increase IQ.

    Stephen Hsu, a physicist who develops algorithms for predicting characteristics that a genotype will yield, was quoted on the subject as saying, “In surveys of the clients of in-vitro fertilization clinics in the United States, about half say they would pay for a genetic screening that would reveal whether an embryo would likely become a person with well-below-average intelligence. Such predictive genetic tests don’t exist yet, but it’s really just a matter of time.

    So, let’s say both Haier and Hsu are right, maybe they aren’t, but consider the possibility that they are. If in the coming future, medical science has the ability to increase intelligence through either genetic modifications or embryo selection, would it not be morally, if not pragmatically prudent to do so? There’s a strong argument here, that societies would be morally obligated to offer such services to persons or groups of persons with low intelligence in the same way they are morally obligated to provide means tested programs.

    Think of the benefits you would confer on a society by doing so. What effect would it have on social capital, crime/recidivist rates, marriage rates, out-of-wedlock birthrates, unemployment, welfare, GDP, drug use, etc., etc.?

    For anyone interested, here’s the latest data from a 2018 study on Genes and SES.

    Genetic Analysis of Social-Class Mobility in Five Longitudinal Studies

    (1) “Across these studies, there were three consistent findings. First, education-linked genetics were related to social attainment: Children with higher education polygenic scores tended to complete more years of schooling, build more successful occupational careers, and accumulate more wealth. Second, there was a gene–environment correlation: Children with higher polygenic scores tended to grow up in socioeconomically better-off homes. Third, education-linked genetics were related to social mobility: Regardless of where they started in life, children with higher polygenic scores tended to move up the social ladder in terms of education, occupation, and wealth, even compared with siblings in their own families.

    (2) “The finding that participants’ education-linked genetics predicted change in their social position within their own lives, replicated across five cohorts in three countries, argues against the explanation that education-linked genetics are simply a correlate of a privileged social inheritance that escaped ancestry controls in GWAS. Instead, findings support the explanation that education-linked genetics are connected to social class because they influences attainment: Participants’ education-linked genetics predicted their social mobility, and differences in education-linked genetics between siblings predicted differences between siblings in life-course attainments.

    (3) “Findings suggest that education-linked genetics may be connected to social class in part because education-linked genetics carried by a person’s relatives can influence that person’s own attainment.

    (4) “We found that measured genetics related to patterns of social attainment and mobility, partly through direct influences on individuals and partly through predicting the environments in which they grew up. Specifically, parents’ genetics influence the environments that give children their start in life, while children’s own genetics influence their social mobility across adult life.

    And here’s data from a 2017 study on Genes and Culture

    Worldwide Genetic and Cultural Change in Human Evolution

    (1) “Aspects of human culture, such as religion and sex-specific demographic features including sex-biased migration and sex-specific definition of cultural belonging, can also shape a population’s trajectory of genetic evolution.

    (2) “Human culture can also bias genetic evolution through culturally mediated mating preferences. Through assortative mating or homophily, humans often choose mates who are similar to themselves in certain ways. People assort on numerous phenotypes, from polygenic traits such as eye color, height, and IQ to behavioral traits such as generosity, risk attitude, smoking, and education level. This assortment may affect fitness; more similar mates tend to have higher fertility. Further, assortative mating on religion and educational attainment corresponds to differences in the length of runs of homozygosity in homophilic groups…

    • Paul Ellis says

      All right, then. Let’s accept for the sake of argument that compared with other population groupings, on average, black people are thick. The fact is, other population groupings also include thick people, but proportionately, not as many as the black group does.

      So what?

      Society will always include thick people. What is to be done with them? If eugenics is out of the question, it seems to me there are only two ways forward: to change society’s structure and evolution so that it becomes less favourable to bright people, or to change the cultural habits of thick people so that they are less self-harming, and come more to resemble the cultural habits of bright people.

      Which is more likely to succeed? From where is the impetus to come?

      Deciding that despite the fact you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer you’re determined to become as sharp as you can possibly be is a good place to start, and this applies equally to all population groupings. And who is the sharpest knife in the drawer? Most of the commentators here are pretty sharp, but there are certainly people sharper than everyone here combined. So what? Does their towering sharpness invalidate us and our life experience? Why should it? Those very sharp people are just as individually responsible as us for making the most of their lives, and very sharp people tend to have problems unique to them that the less sharp don’t. Genius, allegedly, is pain.

      Stop whinging, get off your arse, and do something worthwhile. Take responsibility for yourself. Straighten up and fly right. Even really thick people are capable of this.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @Paul Ellis

        I was wondering who might let loose the slings and arrows. You seem to be winding up, so let’s take a jaunt through the obvious and then once more into the breach…

        (1)Society will always include thick people. What is to be done with them?

        It’s not obvious that anything should be done with the thick or the thin. Paternalism as a social policy is the midwife of stupidity. As a rule, people are ends onto themselves. Their self-worth (their humanity) is not some value dependent variable that can be influenced by the intellectual inputs of an IQ score. So, what should be done with the thick? Simply, let people get on with their lives. Let them rise or fall on their own accord. If and when they need help, their friends, their family, their communities will answer the call. How do I know? We’re social animals. It is in our interests to help our neighbors when in need. While we’ve relied on the welfare state for maybe 100 years, we’ve relied on one another (independent of gov’t force) for hundreds of thousands of years. I think we’ll be okay, thick or thin.

        (2)If eugenics is out of the question, it seems to me there are only two ways forward: to change society’s structure and evolution so that it becomes less favorable to bright people, or to change the cultural habits of thick people so that they are less self-harming and come more to resemble the cultural habits of bright people.

        Which is more likely to succeed? From where is the impetus to come?

        No, sorry, eugenics is not out of the question. Just writing that makes you want to cringe, but hear me out. Eugenics happens almost every day, if not every, in America. I’m absence the statistics, but I believe the presence of fetal abnormalities (leading to spina bifida, downs, etc.) is one of the more likely reasons that women have or would abortions. Aborting a child due to genetic abnormalities is 100% eugenics and it’s 100% legal in America. Hell, I think some doctors even try to encourage the abortion when genetic abnormalities are known. So, no eugenics is not out of the question. It never has been and there’s no reason to suspect it ever will be.

        Out of your two options neither one is likely to succeed. Not to be flippant, but the first option is not only one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard, it might be one of the most dangerous. What kind of society would create pressures against the selection of intelligent people? A society that won’t be around long, I will guarantee you that.

        The second option is the better of the two, but only because of my lack of enthusiasm for an infinite regression of gene pool. Yes, self-preservation comes natural to me. The second option, though the better of the two by default, is still not likely to succeed because (to my knowledge) no one has figured out how to make less intelligent people consistently make more intelligent choices. It’s almost as if having more intelligence is a prerequisite of making more intelligent choices. That just doesn’t make sense at all. Very strange, indeed.

        In truth, the only way to implement a morally permissible form of social eugenics while encouraging less self-harming habits by the thick (and the thin) is for society to strategically restructure its incentives in such a manner that would indirectly cause or allow for less socially deficit behavior and more socially beneficial behavior. There’s a myriad of ways to accomplish this, including changes to social welfare programs as well as specific tax reforms.

        • Mike says

          Poor example: Spina bifida is most commonly associated with folate deficiency not genetics. So diet rather than genes. So an exmple of some thing that can be socially rectified not eugenically.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            Spina bifida is a complex condition that is likely caused by the interaction of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Some of these factors have been identified, but many remain unknown.

            Changes in dozens of genes in individuals with spina bifida and in their mothers may influence the risk of developing this type of neural tube defect. The best-studied of these genes is MTHFR, which provides instructions for making a protein that is involved in processing the vitamin folate (also called vitamin B9). A shortage (deficiency) of this vitamin is an established risk factor for neural tube defects.” (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

            It’s somewhat telling when someone tries to correct you by qualifying (most commonly) their own answer. My example still holds.

  50. Bob Saget says

    I think there are some major issues with the data you are using as it relates to Japanese Americans. Your argument hinges on the majority of Japanese Americans being interned in WWII and overcoming this blatant hardship, however nowhere does your data seem to define Japanese American as somebody who was interned during WWII. It is imperative that I point out that the vast majority of Japanese Americans live in Hawaii, where there was no internment. Additionally the first modern data you present is from 1970, nearly 30 years after internment ended. During nearly 3 decades there were probably thousand of new Japanese immigrants, none of whom faced internment, all identifying as “Japanese Americans”. Your case would be better served by narrowly examining people who were interned vs. broader “Japanese Americans”, since Japanese Americans in Hawaii have a completely different experience to those on the mainland.

    • Bob Saget says

      I should also point out that you are using Japanese Americans to make a broader point about Asian Americans as a whole which is a bit of a fallacy. Within the broad group “Asian Americans” there are wide disparities. Additionally most Asian Americans immigrated after the 1965 immigration act, since prior to that the Chinese Exclusion act barred most immigration from Asia. This means that the majority of Asians immigrated recently and after a big shift in racial attitudes on the part of white Americans.

      • Joe says

        right – i commented on the same thing. this article was written by a college student and wouldn’t get a D- when I was in school. Poorly disguised, poorly reasoned rationalizations for the continuation of the status quo..

  51. Edward Freeman says

    Coleman Hughes appears to be the Thomas Sowell pre-emptively reincarnated.

  52. Skippy Kipling says

    “people, regardless of skin tone, do some really stupid things like back in the early 2000s take all of their home equity out to buy an $80k car they wanted to show as their means of success. They dumped their wealth into a depreciating asset”

    While I agree that few people should be buying $80k cars, Bill’s comment wrongly suggests that cars are depreciating assets while houses aren’t.

    The myth that houses hold their value or even appreciate is sustained only if we ignore the enormous amount of money we put into maintaining them, repairing them, and selling them.

  53. Most black people think the stock market is black magic. Even many blacks that makes a decent living. That’s a gigantic problem.

  54. As someone over 50 who should have some wealth accumulation by now, since my children are grown and out of the home for some time, I have experienced a new poverty in my middle age that I don’t believe existed prior to the 1980s, at least to the extent to which it affects nearly every person in the nation right now, regardless of age, education, income, or current wealth accumulation.
    Our entire economy shifted from paper to plastic. That is to say, never before in history has individual debt been rewarded in the way it is now. One MUST go into debt in order to have a strong personal financial standing, no matter how much actual money one does or does not have. If someone has lived within their means, truly, they would not have any debt in their financial history, but not having any credit (which is debt) history is actually worse to those who control access to financial instruments than having a history of bad credit (debt). Why? When did it become acceptable or desirable to accumulate debt? When did living beyond one’s means stop including incurring tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt?
    It seems to me that at about the same time, a single income was no longer enough to support a family; blue collar jobs seemed to no longer were enough to support one’s self, in many cases, where not long before they paid more than enough for someone to plan their future, marry, have children, raise them, and even put them through college.
    Add to that, the involvement of government in the direct control of some of our most important financial instruments- college loans, mortgages, and in banks themselves- and the problems in having the ability to accrue wealth were exponentially exascerbated, in my opinion.
    Whose bright idea was this? Where did it start? I’m not quite old enough to pinpoint it through experience and memory, so can only rely on sketchy and often scant information which acknowledges such correlations. Anyone point me in the direction to find out the root cause of why I will be working until I literally either die, or can’t care for myself at all?

  55. Some black leaders HAVE spent time looking inward. Bill Cosby was famous for this (before his unmasking as someone whom we shouldn’t listen to now), as well as other less famous leaders.

  56. prince says

    Absolutely brilliant piece.

    Left or right – the article must be read. But more than all, black leaders should read it. This one is for you and it has all the pointers from breaking the deadlock of the blacks in the last 50 years.

    At the very least – start a conversation.

    • Daud Zeb says

      First step is forgiving who harmed you, not establishing who it was that harmed you.

      Black peoples must forgive white peoples if they want to move past the injustices done to them.

  57. Denise says

    One reason black people don’t save as much as whites is because they frequently provide financial support to family members and friends. Many black people withdraw money from their savings accounts or workplace retirement plans to pay for a relative’s funeral, rent or mortgage payment, or school expenses. There is no expectation of reimbursement…

    You have to rely on more than academic studies to understand what goes on in black communities.

  58. Pingback: Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap – A Rebuttal – Resolving the Dissonance

  59. Pingback: Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap – A Rebuttal – Resolving the Dissonance

  60. Joe says

    sophomoric regurgitated right-wing PR points, full of simplistic, poorly thought out “reasoning” that doesn’t pass muster.
    Full of simplified arguments that sooth the colonist’s conscience by making their stealing ways sound reasonable, like comparing the south to the north economically, as if they weren’t connected economically…the north was industrialized and added value to extremely cheap raw materials (cotton) provided by slave labor. The south, like all providers of raw materials, didn’t accumulate as much wealth as the north prior to the war, and it was also ravaged by the north during the war, as the bulk of the war was fought there. The north’s wealth is every bit as much derived from stolen land, resources, and slave labor as any colony’s.
    Then the non-argument of the Japanese’s wealth post WW2, which the author quickly (and illogically) switches to comparing “asian’s wealth”…do I need to explain the logical fallacy in that?
    Face it, rabid right wingers: there is no feel-good in defending colonialism. Colonialism is imperialism, it is stealing and murdering, it is conquering raping and pillagin. You really have to twist yourself up in knots to try to feel good about that.

    • Not a single individual who committed these transgressions is alive today, and those of us alive today bear no responsibility for correcting them.

  61. Pingback: Open Thread, 07/23/2018 – Gene Expression

  62. Edward Kalbaugh says

    Brilliant article! Coleman provides intelligent narrative for what is intuitively obvious to anyone that has thoughtfully observed individuals and society. The task now is to communicate this in a few sound bites that convince the voting ignorati.

  63. “Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves,” he writes, “and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected.”

    BUT, the south is generally the least wealthy quarter of America. So maybe the descendants of slaves owe the white southerners reparations.

  64. Frank says

    Many of the posts here add more heat than light. For most of its history, the U.S. was a European-derived nation with a small “minority” population. As recently as the 1970 US Census, the USA was 84% Caucasian, 11% black, and just 4% Hispanic. It is only recently that the USA and Europe is getting an actual sense of what it means to be a multicultural democracy and it seems clear that the harsh reality doesn’t meet the idealized and utopian theory for many Americans.

    The roof is about to crash in on those who insist on a purely environmental explanation of all sorts of ethnic differences, not just intelligence. Since the decoding of the genome, it has been securely established that race is not a social construct, evolution continued long after humans left Africa along different paths in different parts of the world, and recent evolution involves cognitive as well as physiological functioning.

    The best summary of the evidence is found in the early chapters of Nicholas Wade’s recent book, “A Troublesome Inheritance.” We’re not talking about another 20 years before the purely environmental position is discredited, but probably less than a decade. What happens when a linchpin of political correctness becomes scientifically untenable?

    The PC problem facing us down the road is the increasing rate at which the technical literature reports new links between specific genes and specific traits. Soon there will be dozens, then hundreds, of such links being reported each year. The findings will be tentative and often disputed—a case in point is the so-called warrior gene that encodes monoamine oxidase A and may encourage aggression. But so far it has been the norm, not the exception, that variations in these genes show large differences across races. We don’t yet know what the genetically significant racial differences will turn out to be, but we have to expect that they will be many. It is unhelpful for social scientists and the media to continue to proclaim that “race is a social construct” in the face of this looming rendezvous with reality.

  65. Enlightenment Champion says

    Hughes uses the worn method of arguing against extreme statements to refute a generalization. Below are a few examples of my concerns.

    Hughes fails to mention that, for generations past, the leading factor in the success of American individuals is their parent’s success. Another example of cherry-picking is his statements about the effectiveness of civil rights legislation. Hughes is probably not old enough to remember that it was at least a full generation before these laws created meaningful opportunities. Some regions of the country still lag behind.

    To say that the rate of income increase was greater for blacks than for whites after WWII is misleading since the continuing disparity in income was (and still is) the better measure of discrimination. Blacks have not caught up several generations later.

    The conclusion he professes for Boston’s blacks is the most ridiculous. The data presented is consistent with American blacks surviving a completely different culture than the Caribbean blacks. It swings his argument to the polar opposite of what he states.

    I took some time to read many of the comments. Hughes feeds notions in people that are distressing. His sophomoric treatise is really little more than a rant. I agree with one comment that his paper would merit a nearly failing grade in classes on data interpretation.

  66. Dustin says

    Hughes makes no mention at all of the Black Church, arguably the most important institution in black culture, and its role as an advocate for precisely the kind of self-improvement he calls for.

    He also doesn’t really ask why cultural pathologies arise in the first place. We have no idea what “black culture” would look like in the absence of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, segregation, red-lining, mass incarceration, and over-policing. The question itself may make no sense, since we must assume that cultures, like organisms, adapt to the environments in which they are placed, and unhealthy environments can yield adaptations that would never arise in healthy ones, and which may prove pernicious when the environment changes.

    To take one of Hughes’ examples, spending habits that appear unwise from one position in the socioeconomic environment may be rational in another, or may be due to environmental factors that are themselves the result of government policy (like segregation), and would abate if those factors abated. That was the finding of one study on conspicuous consumption and race from 2008.

  67. phil the b says

    I’m basically co-signing what Enlightenment Champion said. There are a ton of holes in this essay including really poor comparisons, lots of conjecture and an absence of common sense (the smartphone example, for instance). Don’t quote Baldwin if you’re not on that level.

  68. phil the b says

    Also, there is no “black culture.” It’s a vague concept. What does that even mean? Many of the lazy cherry picking examples of “black culture” are things I can’t personally identify with. That doesn’t make me any less black than the people perpetuating this nonsense.

    The only thing I agree with in this essay is in regards to financial literacy. That is a serious problem. It’s not a race problem (although we know what role race can play in socioeconomics), but it’s an American problem. Most Americans are not financially literate.

    • Phil, most of the rest of us are totally clear about “Black culture”. We’re not talking about Blacks who have assimilated to the median (they work, they get married, have most children in wedlock, save for retirement, respect valid authority, generally obey the law, spend their money at the normative rate (not the higher rate noted in the article), etc. We’re talking about those Blacks whose patterns are the inverse. To claim you don’t recognize “Black culture” is disingenuous.

      • Denise says

        Black people have been in America longer as an ethnic group than most white Americans. Therefore, we are already a part of the mainstream so us being able to “assimilate” is kind of a weird thing to state. That is a strange term. My family has been in this country since the 1600s. I am a black American and more American than most whites whose families came here in the late 1800s or later.

        See above for some info on black American culture from an historical perspective. Seems to me that you are basing your view of “black culture” on some sort of media stereotype instead of what it actually is.

    • Denise says

      Black culture in America is based upon the historical patterns of behavior of the black demographic. I am black. Our culture is primarily based upon extended kin familiar relationships (both so called “traditional families” and not traditional family relations), social and political activism (our demographic has been much more involved in this than others in this nation), focused on achieving educational opportunities, creativity (black people basically created “American music” and “American dance”), resiliency, and a dedication to faith/spiritual tendencies.

      This article doesn’t even discuss black American culture from a cultural perspective. If people want to know more about black culture they should look up and/or attend the Smithsonian museum of African American Culture in DC. It has various floors that describe our culture from an historical to present perspective.

      In many ways black American culture is similar to general American culture – however, there are differences especially in our historical family/extended kin connections, our dedication to ensuring “equal opportunities” in regards to activism (we also have very high rates of volunteerism/community service compared to other demographics), our creativity in regards to music, dance, theater, and literature (especially the explosion and focus during the 20th century WEB DuBois I mentioned earlier and other black leaders made a specific task of highlighting back then what was called “negro culture” in America) and a dedication of educational advancement/opportunities. Only people not familiar with black American history IMO are unaware of the focus of the demographic since the 19th century really on educational opportunities. Free blacks in norther areas were very successful post Civil War in integrating public schools in the Midwest and Northern portions of the country. Because of this – black people in northern areas actually tested higher than southern and recently immigrated whites who came to this country and who were tested during WWI.

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  73. Totally agree with the article, it is individual choices and determination that makes us who we are. Sure we are quick to think that some are more privileged than others because of a, b, and c, but if we look at living examples such as Ben Carson, one of the best neurosurgeons in the world and tons of immigrants that start life in the US as “underprivileged” we are always in for big surprises.

  74. Cwilson says

    Interesting very well written article… the comment thread in some ways is a even more interesting as a microcosm of the problems with the far left and the far right.

  75. Michael Smith says

    I agree with your premise that behavioral issues have a lot more to do with the wealth gap than the legacy of slavery and discrimination. But I disagree with your assertion that bad spending habits are to blame. I read the Nielsen study and black women are 14% more likely to buy luxury cars, but overall, only 7% of black women own luxury cars, they are 9% more likely to have fine jewelry, but only 15% have fine jewelry. So overspending on luxury good only applies to a minority of black women.

    The biggest reason for the wealth gap is despite rising incomes, is that blacks save much less than whites. One reason studies point to as to why African Americans tend to save less despite their household income rising is family responsibilities. A staggering 68 percent of black households are headed by single women – women with no partner or spouse. This is much higher than the twenty-six percent rate of female-only heads of household for the general population. Beyond this immediate obligation, thirty-three percent of black households financially support children and or grandchildren who are younger than eighteen years old. It is worth noting that nine percent of this group’s home are supporting parents or grandparents. When it comes to the general population, studies find that only twenty-five percent support children, while four percent support parents or grandparent.

    The elephant in the room is that too many black families are headed by single female parents. More than 70 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock. Only 25 of white families and 16% of Asian are single parent. I would assume the percentages are fairly low for immigrant blacks and Jews and other successful groups your cite. These families are much better equipped to success on a variety of social measures including savings, wealth accumulation, education attainment. I was born to two married black Jamaican immigrants and attended Stanford and Berkeley and am not in the top 1% in income and accumulated wealth, despite spending too much on luxury items.

    The cultural behavioral issue we need to address is not black spending habits, it is out of wedlock births. We must purse government policies, social activism, and a broader national conversation to increase the number of black children born into two parent families. I agree with you that identity politics and left/right name calling won’t help. Let’s have an honest and open debate about how to improve family planning behavior in the black community.

  76. Anonymous Coward says

    “A staggering 68 percent of black households are headed by single women – women with no partner or spouse… We must purse government policies, social activism, and a broader national conversation to increase the number of black children born into two parent families… Let’s have an honest and open debate about how to improve family planning behavior in the black community.”

    Here’s honest and open, then. I’ll get shot to bits for saying this, but one has to start by addressing the hidden matriarchy (there it is in the numbers) and its infantilisation of black males. The tough-guy-in-the-playground persona and hierarchy isn’t conducive to personal responsibility, stable fatherhood, and stable family units.

    I have seen these interpersonal dynamics played out in front of me, and I’m sure Michael Smith knows what I’m talking about. Well done to him for not being caught in this trap, along with other (Caribbean) black men I know well and have enjoyed excellent working relationships and friendships with.

    That said, there are other hidden matriarchies – Japan is one – but there, the social consequences are different. Why is it that in some cultures the women seem to want to arrest the development of the men? Or if not actively want to arrest their development, appear to be content with infantile men?

    Posting as Anonymous Coward, for very, very obvious reasons.

  77. The Daemon says

    There’s one problem in all of this (as much as the entire article is amazing and correct) – what do the black identify with (or identify as) once they abandon the underdog, ex-slaves, tough gangsters identity?

    Imagine we somehow managed to precisely remove that identity from the African American population. One morning they wake up, and *poof*, that part is simply forgotten.

    Now we are left with an identity vacuum.

    If your whole life, for generations, is based on this ancient stories of slavery, mistreatment, etc. one simply embodies this. It’s very deep in the culture. The music is about this, the movies are about that. What do you replace Ex-slave identity with?

    I am often thinking about Fresh Prince series, and the Banks family. Why can’t blacks identify with Banks family? Are they going to be scolded for “acting white” then?

    So if the ex-slave / underdog / tough guy mentality isn’t working, and if the local group / local society is scolding you for acting otherwise (acting white), then what’s the exit? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t …

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