Inequality Within Black America
Written by Dr. Brooks Robinson Ph.D   
Friday, 15 February 2013 00:27


An Obama Presidency does not expunge the issue of inequality in America. Whether one is concerned with income or wealth inequality, the differences between White and Black Americans are stark. Accordingly, Black Americans should continue efforts to reduce the income and wealth gaps that exist vis-à-vis White Americans.

However, Black Americans should not overlook the fact that there is inequality within Black America. Given that we have financial superstars, such as Robert Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Cosby, and knowing that 25 percent of Black Americans are in poverty, one might surmise, there is considerable income and wealth inequality within Black America.

Standard measures of, and statistics on, wealth inequality are difficult to obtain. However, a well recognized measure of income inequality is the Gini ratio. The Gini ratio measures how evenly income is distributed. It takes on values between 0 and 1. A Gini ratio of 0 indicates perfect equality (i.e., every household has identical income), while a Gini ratio of 1 indicates perfect inequality (i.e., one household has all of the income). The lower the Gini ratio, the better—that is, the greater the equality.

The U.S. Census Bureau produces annual estimates of Gini ratios for American households as part of the “Annual Social and Economic Supplements” to the Current Population Survey ( (Table H-4)).

The data show that the Gini ratio for the nation was .477 for 2011; the Gini ratio for “White alone” households was .469; and the Gini ratio for “Black alone” households was .502. Income inequality is greatest among Black Americans—being 0.033 Gini points higher than income inequality among Whites, and 0.025 Gini points higher than income inequality for the nation (the Gini ratio was .466 for “Asian alone” households and .458 for Hispanic households). The differences between the Black, White, and the national Gini ratios are different in a statistically significant sense, meaning that the gaps conveyed by the Gini ratios are “real.”

While we are often critical of the inequality that exists between Blacks and Whites in America, we seldom raise concerns about the inequality within Black America. That inequality is real and it is substantial. Should we not be just as concerned about inequality within Black America as we are about inequality across America in general?

Theoretically, we can help reduce inequality between Blacks and Whites by reducing inequality between Blacks. Therefore, shouldn’t we work on Black inequality?

The Gini ratio for Black Americans bears monitoring. If it increases overtime, it signals that wealthy Blacks are increasing their income relative to poor Blacks. Such an outcome is inconsistent with the principles of community, and it does not bode well for maintaining a unified Black push for equality with the rest of America.


About the author:  Dr.  Brooks B.  Robinson is the founder and director of, an Internet portal which serves as a resource for Black American economic concepts, issues, policies, and plans.  He holds a PhD in Economics.   Dr. Books Robinson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He has over 20 years experience as an economist in the public and private sectors, focusing mainly on national economic accounting, economic development in Asia, and on Black American and ethnic economic issues. For the latter category, he has covered the following topics: The future, religion, education, prisons, income inequality, media, emigration, nation formation, strategic planning, and Social Security. Dr. Robinson has numerous publications to his credit: Books (such as Black Americans and the Media:  An Economic Perspective:, chapters in composite works, encyclopedia entries, scholarly articles, and syndicated commentaries. He is a world traveler who continues to reflect a fresh perspective on social criticism and on important economic topics. Dr.  Robinson currently lives in Hawaii with his family.  He can be reached at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .