Should Black Voters Favor Democrats?

One of the memes that was circulated in some quarters during the last election is that Black people are excessively loyal to the Democrats. In this post I will examine whether that is true using real median incomes.

The figure below shows the Black Median Income as a Percentage of the Total (i.e., all ethnicities) Median Income, with Democratic Presidential administrations shaded in gray:

Black Median Income as a Pct of Total Median Income 20161224a

Black median income was 48.5% of total median income in 1948, and increased to 78.9% of total median income in 2015. In any given year, however, the ratio of Black median income tended to increase by 0.9% when a Democrat was President, and by only 0.2% when a Republican was President. But… the big increase under Democrat is due largely to two periods: the JFK/LBJ administrations and the Clinton administration. In fact, the ratio barely budged in the Truman years (for which data is available) and the Carter administration, and actually declined under Obama so far.

But of course, the ratio of median income for Black people to the total median income can increase while still making everyone worse off if the entire pie is decreasing. So here’s what real median income (total, and for Black people only) looks like since 1948:

Real Median Income 20161224a

Once again, the performance is better under Democrats than under Republicans. But if we drill down, once more it appears the difference is due entirely to the JFK/LBJ and Clinton years. In fact, during the Truman, Carter and Obama presidencies, the total real median income increase was about $130 a year (beating the Republican average), but the increase in real median income for Black people was only $8 a year, which was less than the Republican average.

So we can conclude… Black people have gotten a bigger share of a growing pie under Democrats than under Republicans, but this is only true because of the extraordinary performance of the JFK/LBJ and Clinton administrations. On the other hand, hapless and ineffective Presidents like Carter and Obama have not, on average, posted positive income outcomes for the Black community.

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