From this article in the Washington Post, writer Alec MacGillis explains the difference.
The Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project caused a stir two years ago by reporting that nearly half of African American children born to middle-class parents in the 1950s and '60s had fallen to a lower economic status as adults, a rate of downward mobility far higher than that for whites.
This week, Pew will release findings of a study that helps explain that economic fragility, pointing to the fact that middle-class blacks are far more likely than whites to live in high-poverty neighborhoods, which has a negative effect on even the better-off children raised there. The impact of neighborhoods is greater than other factors in children's backgrounds, Pew concludes.
Even as African Americans have made gains in wealth and income, the report found, black children and white children are often raised in starkly different environments. Two out of three black children born from 1985 through 2000 were raised in neighborhoods with at least a 20 percent poverty rate, compared with just 6 percent of white children, a disparity virtually unchanged from three decades prior.
Even middle-class black children have been more likely to grow up in poor neighborhoods: Half of black children born between 1955 and 1970 in families with incomes of $62,000 or higher in today's dollars grew up in high-poverty neighborhoods. But virtually no white middle-income children grew up in poor areas.
Using a study that has tracked more than 5,000 families since 1968, the Pew research found that no other factor, including parents' education, employment or marital status, was as important as neighborhood poverty in explaining why black children were so much more likely than whites to lose income as adults.
"We've known that neighborhood matters . . . but this does it in a new and powerful way," said John E. Morton, who directs Pew's economic policy unit. "Neighborhoods become a significant drag not just on the poor, but on those who would otherwise be stable."