The State of Black America

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“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” – W. E. B. Du Bois

 Nearly five years after the United States Economy collapsed there has been signs of an economic revival. The Commerce Department recently released a report showing that consumer spending grew at a surprisingly fast rate in February, which was followed by a stronger than expected February jobs report. First time unemployment claims has fallen to a five year low and the housing market seems to be rebounding, looks like America is roaring back! Not all parts of America is on the rebound. In the African-American Community jobs continue to be scarce, wealth is non-existent, and the educational gap between African-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians continue to increase.

Unemployment

The national unemployment rate dropped to 7.7% in February, but it remains at 13.8% for African-Americans the same as January’s rate.

“The unemployment data over the past three recessions illustrate two telling trends. First, the unemployment rate among African Americans rises faster than that of whites during a recession. Second, the unemployment rates for African Americans tend to start to rise earlier than those of whites—and those rates tend to stay higher for longer than those of whites. This phenomenon can be described as “first fired, last hired” and is one of the key structural obstacles facing African Americans in the labor market (Christian Weller)”.

“One structural obstacle is the result of the industries and sectors in which African Americans typically find employment. The manufacturing sector, which employs a large number of African American men, experienced steady job losses throughout the Great Recession… Furthermore, as state and local governments continue to cut spending, African Americans are disproportionately affected by the losses in those areas… Another structural obstacle: More people lose jobs and possibly stay out of a job longer in groups with higher unemployment rates, thus suffering from a longer loss of job relevant skills and hence creating a vicious cycle of high unemployment (Christian Weller)”.

“Discrimination may pose another structural obstacle. A 2011 Economic Policy Institute study concludes that labor market discrimination is at the root of black male underemployment. The study analyzes employment data and determines that occupational preferences and a dearth of “soft skills” are not the causes of employment disparities between blacks and whites (Christian Weller)”.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released a report that cites “many obstacles to achieving equality for African Americans in the federal workforce.” The report found the following:

●“Unconscious biases and perceptions about African Americans still play a significant role in employment decisions in the federal sector.”

●“African Americans lack adequate mentoring and networking opportunities for higher-level and management positions.”

●“Insufficient training and development assignments perpetuate inequalities in skills and opportunities for African Americans.”

●“Narrow recruitment methods negatively impact African Americans.”

●“The perception of widespread inequality among African Americans in the federal work force hinders their career advancement.”

●“Educational requirements create obstacles for African Americans in the federal work force.”

●“EEO regulations and laws are not adequately followed by agencies and are not effectively enforced.”

 

Wealth

A recent Brandies University report cited that the wealth gap between African-Americans and Caucasians households has tripled within the last 25 years. The study tracked 1,700 working-age households between 1984 and 2009 and concluded that the disparity between Caucasian and African-American families went from $85,000 to $236,500 during that period.

The study pointed to what researchers described as “the configuration of both opportunities and barriers in workplaces, schools, and communities that reinforce deeply entrenched racial dynamics in how wealth is accumulated and that continue to permeate the most important spheres of everyday life (Angela Blackwell).”

Additionally, the study found that nearly 66 percent of the wealth gap was driven by a variety of factors, such as unemployment, inheritances and wealth accumulation. For instance, a $1 increase in average income over the course of the study, generated 69 cents in additional wealth for an African-American household compared with $5.19 for a white household, in part because black households had fewer opportunities to grow their savings beyond money needed for emergencies (Angela Blackwell).

This report combined with a 2011 report from Pew Research that found that the median wealth of Caucasians households is 20 times that of African-Americans households paints a demoralizing picture. The median net worth of Caucasian households in 2005 was $134, 992 compared to $12, 124 for African-American households and $113, 149 in 2009 compared to 5, 677 for African-Americans. The African-American popular culture is one that promotes “ballin”, name brand clothing, and cars, but in reality what we need is a community that embraces education, family, and financial discipline.

The family structure is also a huge impediment to wealth. 80% of African-American children are born to single parents a majority of those are women. 40% of African-American children in a single parent household are living in poverty. This cycle of single parent households creates barriers to employment, wealth, and education. African-American women are hit especially hard.

“African-American women are entering what should be their retirement years with much lower levels of wealth than white women, making them more reliant on Medicare and other government programs.”

“A new study by Dr. Fenaba Addo, a Health and Society Scholar in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, shows that a quarter of African-American women had no assets or a negative net worth when they reached ages 51 to 61. Lower marriage rates and a history of martial disruption explain some of the difference, the study says.”

“African-American women ages 51 to 61 had accumulated a median net worth of $33,349, compared with $182,897 for white women the same age. When home value was excluded, those numbers fell to $5,366 for African-American women and $61,761 for white women.”

 

Education

The educational gap between Caucasians and African-Americans continue to expand at alarming rates. In the United States, a black public school student is suspended every four seconds, while every 27 seconds a black high school student drops out of school. Black students are also 3.5 times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled. Within this group, black male students fare the worst (Angela Blackwell). African-American children, especially males, continue to underperform in reading, math, and sciences compared to their Caucasian counterparts. White eighth graders scored an average of 26 points higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test than black eighth graders, and an average of 31 points higher on a the NAEP math test, according to an NCES report released in July 2009 (Jason Koebler).

Closing the achievement gap between Caucasians and African-Americans is critical to improving conditions in the African-American Community. Children that obtain an adequate education are more likely to go on living productive lives and giving back to their community. Policy makers cannot just focus on school performance to determine why African-American children are struggling in school. What happens when a student leaves school is just as important as what happens when a student is in school. A child needs a solid home foundation, with supportive parents, food, and utilities. How can you expect a child to learn when he hasn’t eaten an adequate meal in days or have no lights at home?

Yes, America is slowly recovering from the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, but Black America isn’t progressing as fast as the rest of the country.

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