Duke Today

By Lucas Hubbard

May 12, 2020

The “middle class” can be hard to define. A new report from Duke University suggests that for African Americans it’s simply hard to find — and that’s in the best of circumstances.

The paper from researchers at Duke’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center for Social Equity finds that when using wealth as the defining criteria to demarcate class status, the middle class of black Americans is proportionately much smaller than the white middle class.

“Even before the current pandemic exacerbated racial inequities, black Americans in the proverbial ‘middle class’ were far worse off than their nominal white peers,” says lead author William A. Darity Jr., director of Duke’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and a professor of public policy, African and African American Studies and economics. “And the comparative fragility of black middle class status is aggravated intensely by the COVID-19 crisis because of the lack of the cushion of wealth to weather job loss.”

Read the full story here.