The hard times have affected all of us, but the recession has really taken a toll on Black men- even the ones you wouldn’t expect.

More prone to be negatively affected by the downswing in the economy, Black men are experiencing levels of joblessness not seen since decades past. When the unemployment rate among Black men reached 16.7% in 2010, some compared their experience to the great depression.

With more and more African-American men losing their jobs, new research from the National Survey of American Life showing poor Black men at high risk for depression does not come as much of a shock. But what is raising many eyebrows is the survey’s other notable finding: affluent Black men are at higher risk for depression than those on the other end of the income spectrum.

According to the recent survey, black males who earn $80,000 and more were more likely to report symptoms of depression than those who made $17,000 and below.  Besides proving that every baller doesn’t look as gleeful as Dipset’s Jim Jones, the study gives new insights into black men’s measurements of wealth and emotional well being.

Darryl Hudson, Ph. D at the Center on Social Disparities in Health at the University of San Francisco said that the depression in affluent Black men could be linked to the stress of “integrated environments” where they are “more likely to be exposed to racial discrimination.” However, he cautions that the issue is less abut blame than complexity, saying:

“African-Americans with greater socioeconomic resources are farther away from their social support network, both physically and socially.”

The alienation felt by affluent Black men is only part of what is making them more likely to experience depression. Dr. Earlise Ward of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Nursing, says many affluent Black males often feel as if they are “riding solo.”

“They might have to worry about tokenism, the lack of African-American role models, social isolation from peers who make less money, and pressure from family and friends to provide for them…when all these things come together, you have the perfect storm for depression with African- American men making over $80,000,” said Ward.

While Black men making over $80,000 made up only 24% of the study’s sample and even less in the general population, their responses raise questions on the price paid for rising to the top. While it is commonly assumed that success can breed feelings of accomplishment, it seems that many negative emotions can arise as well. If depression and anxiety are the price Black men pay for “making it,” one has to wonder if race to the top really produces winners.

Tell us what you think Clutchettes- share your thoughts!


  1. I’m about to forward this article to my husband! He is almost in that $80K bracket and always talking about how awesome it will be when we get there… but I continue to warn him about the CULTURAL shifts that happen as your income rises. It is so important to stay GROUNDED as you ascend. Great article Clutch!!

  2. Jennifer

    This is probably hypocritical of me as I am married to someone that isn’t white, but I wonder if the higher rates of interracial marriage in that group contributes to their feeling of isolation.

    I have been in the same industry (moved to different parts of it, but same umbrella) since undergrad, over a decade ago. I started at $45k and have moved up steadily since then, with a break for grad school. Apart from finding new things to waste money on, I don’t think I have moved further from my social support network as my peers have been moving up as well. I also don’t think I have faced more discrimination. Perhaps this is something that affects men more?

  3. Rastaman

    I am not surprised by any of the conclusions expressed by this study. The higher up the economic ladder you get as a black man, especially working for someone else, the more precarious it feels. You look around and very often it is just you. You have may have black male professional peers but they are busy dealing with their own professional and personal issues. It would be beautiful if we felt more secure but many of us are in places where no one we know have been before. So even when we talk to family or friends about the challenges we have to deal with many times they cannot relate and all they know is that you make some money.

    The lack of support system is all along the economic ladder. Look how we react when we hear a black person whose reportedly earned a lot of money fall, there is very often not much sympathy. “The higher monkey climb the more him expose his ass”

  4. “They might have to worry about tokenism, the lack of African-American role models, social isolation from peers who make less money, and pressure from family and friends to provide for them…when all these things come together, you have the perfect storm for depression with African- American men making over $80,000,”

    This quote is so real. I wish more were written about this very point. I have to stop my comment here because I could quickly end up with a thousand words trying to expand on this. I am really glad someone took the time to look at this phenomenon.

  5. When we hear about “depression” we associate this word with mental illness. However, contrary to what the drug peddling psychiatrists say about it, depression is not an illness; it’s a human condition. It’s the opposite of joy, so it is part of an emotional spectrum with extremes at both ends. Morever, when we look at the buzz words dealing with depression in the realm of popular psychology such as, “self esteem”, “self worth”, “self image”, “self love”, “self Loathing”, etc., we can get that this entire area of study is about ego-centrism. There is no room in this private domain for anyone else. Moreover, the way our society deals with this subject as a whole even encourages narcissism. Therefore, barring any chemical or hormonal imbalances which doctors can correct, the person suffering from chronic bouts of depression needs to focus on the needs of others. The best therapy is a program that encourages people to be more altruistic and less self-centered.

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