In his book White Guilt, Shelby Steele argues that few blacks excel in high status jobs because they lack the required skills. From childhood they are told that failure is not their fault, so they never learn that they are responsible for their lack of skills. While other people are working hard to become competent to avoid feeling like failures, blacks don't fear failure; after all, it's not their doing, it's the system.
GSS data can give us some idea if a work ethic among blacks is as important as Steele thinks. Respondents were asked: "To what extent do you agree or disagree that you see yourself as someone who tends to be lazy." Answers ranged from "strongly agree" (1) to "strongly disagree" (5). I calculated the means for those with low job prestige and those with high prestige. The mean work ethic score is 4.19 for the low-status group (n = 115) and 4.03 for the high-status group (n = 66). The two means are not signficantly different. According to these data, higher class blacks are no more hard working than their lower class counterparts. (The means indicate a bias toward thinking that one is not lazy, but this is not really a problem when comparing the two groups unless the bias is systematically stronger in one group than the other.)