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Optimism About Black Americans' Opportunities in U.S. Falls
Social & Policy Issues

Optimism About Black Americans' Opportunities in U.S. Falls

Optimism About Black Americans' Opportunities in U.S. Falls

Story Highlights

  • 64% say Black and White children have equal chances to get a good education
  • 63% say both groups have same chances to get affordable housing, 58% to get a job
  • Black adults are far less likely than White adults to say chances are equal

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the nation continues to grapple with the issue of racial injustice, majorities in the U.S. still believe Black and White Americans have the same chances to obtain a good education, affordable housing or any job for which they are qualified. Yet, the percentages saying the opportunities are equally good for both racial groups are now at their lowest points in at least three decades. Each is down six or seven percentage points since 2016.

Custom line graphs. On three Gallup measures, the percentages of Americans saying Black Americans have as good a chance as White Americans to get any job for which they are qualified, to get a good education, and to get affordable housing are at their lowest points in more than 30 years. Currently, 64% say they have equal opportunities to get a good education. Regarding affordable housing, 53% say the same. And 58% indicate there is racial equality in the job market.

Gallup began asking about two of these measures -- education and jobs -- in the early 1960s, but all three have been more consistently tracked since 1989. The latest readings are from a June 8-July 24 nationally representative survey that includes an oversample of Black Americans weighted to their correct proportion of the population.

The views of White and Black Americans are sharply polarized on each measure. While majorities of White adults say both racial groups have equal chances to obtain a good education, a job or affordable housing, fewer than four in 10 Black adults agree.

Record Low Say Black, White Children Have Same Educational Opportunities

Gallup's initial reading of the education measure in 1962 found that 83% of Americans overall thought Black and White children had equal chances of obtaining a good education in their community. That reading remained at or above 75% until 2016, when it dropped to 71%. Since then, it has fallen to a record-low 64%.

There is a stark racial disparity in perceptions on this measure, as 65% of White adults and 38% of Black adults currently think children of both racial groups have the same chances to get a good education. These are the lowest readings on record for these groups, by 10 and 11 points, respectively.

Line graph. Americans' perceptions of racial equality in education since 1962 among all U.S. adults, White adults and Black adults. Each are at their lowest points on record, including 64% of all adults, 65% of White adults and 38% of Black adults.

Perceptions of Job Opportunities at Recent Low, but Better Than in 1963

Americans' perceptions of racial equality in job opportunities are less positive than their views of racial equality in education.

Overall, 58% of Americans say Black and White adults have the same chances of getting any kind of job for which they are qualified. While the latest reading is the least positive recorded in more than 40 years, Gallup's June 1963 reading during the civil rights movement was significantly lower, at 39%.

White Americans' views of equality in the job market (62%) are similar to their views of educational opportunities, but Black Americans are even less positive about job market equality (31%) than they are about racial equity in education.

Line graph. Americans' perceptions of racial equality in getting a job for which they are qualified since 1963 among all U.S. adults, White adults and Black adults. Overall, 58% of Americans say Black and White adults have the same chance of getting a job for which they are qualified. Gallup's initial 1963 reading during the civil rights movement was significantly lower, at 39%. White adults are twice as likely as Black adults to say they think there is racial equality in getting a job, 62% vs. 31%.

Racial Equality in Housing Lowest in Gallup's Trend

In 1989, Gallup began measuring Americans' views of racial equality in obtaining "any housing they can afford." At that time, 68% of U.S. adults said both racial groups enjoyed equal opportunities. That figure fluctuated between 72% and 83% until 2016, when it dropped to 70%. Since then, it has fallen further, to 63%.

White and Black adults disagree about housing opportunities afforded to both groups within their local community. Two-thirds of White Americans (67%) and 38% of Black Americans say there is racial equity in housing opportunities -- the lowest points on record.

Line graph. Americans' perceptions of racial equality in getting a job for which they are qualified since 1989 among all U.S. adults, White adults and Black adults. Overall, 63% of Americans say Black and White adults have the same chance of getting affordable housing. Two-thirds of White adults and 38% of Black adults say they think there is racial equality in obtaining housing, 62% vs. 31%, respectively.

Bottom Line

As a whole, the U.S. public largely thinks Black and White Americans have equal chances for getting an education, getting a job and finding a home. Yet, fewer Americans today believe racial equality exists in these three areas than they have in more than 30 years. Black adults in particular think there is an imbalance in the opportunities that exist for Black Americans in all three spheres.

These record-low readings may be borne at least in part from recent national conversations about racial injustice in the criminal justice system, which were sparked in May by the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody. These shifts in perceptions could be further evidence of a newfound awareness of systemic racial inequities in the U.S.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


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