America’s Racial Divide, Charted

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

​"This article, first published [the summer of 2014] after protests erupted in Ferguson, Mo., remains a telling guide to where America is and is not narrowing the gap between whites and blacks."

By Neil Irwin, Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz

America’s racial divide is older than the republic itself, a central fault line that has shaped the nation’s history. This month it has manifested itself in sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., after a police killing of an unarmed young black man. The resonance of that event is related to deeper racial fissures between blacks and whites; that divide is the reason that the events in Ferguson amount to something bigger than a local crime story.

What is the state of that larger divide? In what areas has there been meaningful progress toward shared prosperity over the last generation, and in what areas is America as polarized by race as ever — or even more so?

Across a broad range of economic and demographic indicators, the data paint a largely depressing picture. Five decades past the era of legal segregation, a chasm remains between black and white Americans – and in some important respects it’s as wide as ever.

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