A major impression of foreigners, especially those who have never been to the United States, is that the country is economically divided between a comfortably off white population and a distinctly less well-placed black one. The image makes allowances for certain African American athletes and entertainers being super-rich and concedes that there are disadvantaged whites. Yet the belief is strong that prosperity is almost entirely linked to skin pigmentation. Even in the minds of many Americans themselves the words ‘black’ and ‘poor’ are regarded as synonymous and used interchangeably in conversation. The idea that a sizeable portion of African Americans live reasonably affluent lives tends to be either dismissed or regarded as an exaggeration.