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June 1, 2012

Whites earn more than three-fourths of nation's income

WASHINGTON — Whites took home a disproportionate share of income through the recession and slow recovery, but minorities are slowly starting to catch up, a new analysis of census data shows.

According to a study by Sentier Research, a private firm specializing in income statistics, non-Hispanic whites reaped 76 percent of the nation's total wages and other income, even though they were just 64 percent of the population in 2010. The income share is down slightly from the 78 percent made by whites in mid-decade, reflecting the diminishing percentage of the country that is white and not Hispanic.

Asians are the only other group earning a higher share of total income than they represent in the population, about 5 percent.

Hispanics, who are the largest minority group at 16 percent, earn 9 percent of all income, up from about 8 percent in the middle of the decade. And blacks earn 8 percent, only a little higher over the decade, though they make up 13 percent of the nation.

The Sentier study of the American Community Survey income data collected between 2008 and 2010 adds another dimension to the studies of wealth and income made during a period of rapidly shifting demographics and economic uncertainty. Whites are a smaller proportion of the country with every passing year, while the Hispanic and Asian populations grew by double digits over the past decade.

In a report last fall, the Census Bureau said income inequality has increased during the recession, with large losses at the middle and bottom and small declines among the richest households. The Pew Research Center found a widening gap between the wealth accumulated by white households and the assets owned by blacks and Hispanics, who took the biggest hit from the housing bubble bursting and the recession's job losses.

The latest data temper concerns about the recession's long-term impact, particularly on minorities.

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