“Part of what we see over and over again is the limits of political power” to bring about economic equality, Harrison said, pointing in part to deeper structural obstacles for blacks such as lower wealth or segregated neighborhoods.
“Our problem is that given current inequalities in where people start, many of them directly traceable to histories of discrimination and exclusion, these inequalities are likely to be preserved and perpetuated through future generations even if our society were to become genuinely colorblind,” he said.
The Pew findings also coincide with an analysis by the AP-NORC Center showing optimism about the nation’s future divided by race as well as income and education levels, with blacks and Hispanics taking a more positive outlook than whites.
That finding comes despite economic hardship hitting those of all races. The AP reported last month that 4 out of 5 U.S. adults have struggled with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives, with white pessimism about their economic future at a 25-year high.
In the Pew survey, perceptions of economic disparity by race were less pronounced among those with lower income levels. Both blacks and whites with incomes below $50,000 annually were less likely than their higher-income counterparts to say blacks are worse off than whites. More than 40 percent of the poor are white.
Census data show that whites outpace blacks in median net worth — 14 to 1. In 2011, median black household income was 59 percent of median white income, up modestly from 55 percent in 1967.
—By political party, about 56 percent of Republicans say the U.S. has made a lot of progress toward racial equality, compared with just 38 percent of Democrats. When asked how much more needs to be done, 35 percent of Republicans say “a lot” compared with 63 percent of Democrats.
—About 7 in 10 blacks say they are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with police (70 percent) or in the courts (68 percent). And the Pew report shows that in 2010, black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated. That’s up from 1960, when black men were five times more likely to be in a federal or state prison, or local jail.
— Blacks are more likely than other race groups to say they are treated less fairly than whites on the job (54 percent); in local public schools (51 percent); in getting health care (47 percent); when voting in elections (48 percent); and in stores or restaurants (44 percent).
The Pew survey includes interviews with 2,231 adults by cellphone or landline from Aug. 1-11, 2013, including 1,471 non-Hispanic whites, 376 non-Hispanic blacks and 218 Hispanics. Among all adults, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. It is higher for subgroups.