The Black Middle Class: Progress, Prospects, and Puzzles

This article documents the size and growth of the black middle class at the beginning of the 21st century, analyzing data from the US Census and the Current Population Survey on income, occupations, and education. We examine barriers to further growth of the black middle class, assessing theories of marriageability and imbalances in the numbers of college-educated black men and women. We also document the consequences of low marriage and cohabitation rates for the growth of the black middle class, and show that there are relatively high rates of intergenerational downward mobility among affluent black families.

(2004). Journal of African American Studies, 8(1-2), 6-19. With Paul Attewell, David Lavin, and Thurston Domina. Reprinted in J.J. Battle, M. Bennett, & A. Lemelle (eds), Free at Last? Black America in the 21st Century, Transaction Publishers, 2006.