Even in Better Times, Some Americans Seem Farther Behind. Here’s Why.

The most plausible explanation, the report concluded, is the “diminishing set of advantages relative to nonwhite working-class families in terms of high school graduation rates, access to relatively high-paying jobs, and freedom from explicit workplace discrimination.”

What may be surprising is that the group with the most similar experience in some respects is black and Hispanic college graduates. Additional education has clearly paid off in terms of greater wealth and income. Yet they are lagging well behind their white counterparts. Among college graduates, white families, for instance, had six times the median wealth of black and Hispanic families, extending a stubborn racial gap.

Without a cushion of family assets, the housing bubble and recession cut deep among minorities, gnawing away the assets even of college graduates. White households with similar education levels also lost wealth, but their relative position was enhanced. In the 1990s, their real median net worth was 256 percent of the general population’s. That figure jumped to 416 percent by 2016.

“Racial privilege is alive and well among college-educated elites,” said Joan C. Williams, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and the author of “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.”

Black college graduates were also the only other group besides the white working class that experienced declines in all three nonfinancial measures tracked — health, homeownership, and marriage or cohabitation rates.

Researchers have found that socioeconomic status and health shadow each other, climbing or falling in tandem.

For upwardly mobile African-Americans, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, achieving the American dream has had a peculiar side effect. They tend to encounter more discrimination because they live and work in predominantly white environments, said Cynthia Colen, an associate professor at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health.

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