Monday, May 19, 2008

Economic Crisis Brewing In Black America...

Report Paints Dismal Economic Picture For African Americans

As rapidly increasing amounts of debt, high job losses, skyrocketing gas and food prices, and a tidal wave of foreclosures drive many American families to the edge of financial ruin, African-American households represent a “troubling and unique case,” according to a report released last week by the Center for American Progress.

‘’If you look at any economic indicators, the African-American community has had less employment gains, lower employment ratios, higher unemployment, a declining home ownership rate, and sharply lower health insurance and pension coverage,’’ said Andrew Jakabovics, associate director for the Center for American Progress’ Economic Mobility Program.

‘’Every indicator has been going down for seven years, and that does make the African-American community a troubling and unique case. We had the strong performance of the late 1990s and it was (like) a switch was turned on in 2001 and all of a sudden it was like African-Americans no longer participated in the weak economic recovery, not even to the degree that whites participated,” said Jakabovics.

“There are clear distinctions and discrepancies and I think it’s important to point those out because those are the first dominoes in this overall economic insecurity among America’s middle class,” he said.

“I think it’s important to focus on where the economic hard times hit first so that we can address the problem and make sure that families work hard and have economic security in return for their contributions.’’

Take a look at these key indicators of African-Americans’ standing in the economy:

Family Income

African-Americans’ median income declined by an average of 1.3 percent per year from 2000 to 2006, after having risen by an average of 2.2 percent per year in the 1990s. From 1990 to 2000, African-Americans’ median income rose dramatically from $27,929 to $34,735 (in 2006 dollars). But this number actually declined from $34,735 in 2000 to $32,132 in 2006, an annualized average decline of 1.3 percent.

Whites’ median income decreased during this time as well, but only by an annualized average rate of 0.3 percent. In 2006, Whites’ median income was $52,423, which is 1.6 times greater than African-Americans’ median income in that year.


Unemployment levels for African- Americans have increased an average of 0.1 percent since 2000 after consistently decreasing during the 1990s. The unemployment rate for African-Americans declined by an average of 0.4 percent each year between 1990 and 2000, while the rate for Whites declined by an annual average of 0.1 percent.

Yet since 2000, the unemployment rate has averaged an annual increase of 0.1 percent for both African-Americans and Whites. African-Americans’ unemployment rate in 2007 was 8.3 percent-4.2 percentage points higher than whites’ 4.1 percent unemployment rate.

Health Care

The percentage of African-Americans not covered by health insurance increased by an average of 0.3 percent per year from 2000 to 2006, after having decreased significantly in the 1990s. The number of African-Americans without health insurance decreased from 19.7 percent in 1990 to 18.3 percent in 2000, an average annual decline of 0.2 percentage points. But from 2000 to 2006, the number of uninsured African-American individuals increased from 18.3 percent to 20.3 percent, an average annual rise of 0.3 percentage points. In 2006, 20.3 percent of African-Americans were not covered by health insurance, compared to only 10.8 percent of whites who were not covered.

Retirement Plan Participation

Only 43.8 percent of African-Americans participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2006, compared to 55.0 percent of whites. The percent of African-Americans who participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan in the private sector declined from 47.5 percent in 2002 to 43.8 percent in 2006, which translates to an annual decline of 0.9 percentage points. This further widened the gap between the percentage of African-Americans and the percentage of Whites participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, with 55.0 percent of Whites participating in 2006, or roughly 20 percent more than the percentage of African-Americans participating.

High-Cost Mortgages

More than 53 percent of home-purchase loans made to African-Americans in 2006 were high-cost, as opposed to only 18 percent for Whites. Many more African-Americans received high-cost mortgages than Whites. Data collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act show that 172,055 loans made to African-Americans were high-cost, as opposed to only 150,301 that were market-rate.


African-Americans’ usual median weekly earnings have stagnated since 2000, while Whites’ have continued to increase slightly. African-Americans’ usual median weekly earnings (in 2006 dollars) have essentially remained unchanged since 2000, declining at an average annualized rate of -0.001 percent, while Whites’ earnings grew at an average annualized rate of 0.2 percent. Although African-Americans’ earnings rose slightly in the early 2000s, they have since declined, standing at $553.10 at the end of 2007-$0.04 below where they were in 2000 (in 2006 dollars). The earnings gap between African-Americans and Whites also continued to widen, standing at a $142.89 difference at the end of 2007.


The percent of African-Americans living in poverty increased from 2000 to 2006 by an average of 0.82 percent per year, after having declined by an average of 1.25 percent per year in the 1990s. The percent of African- Americans in poverty decreased from 29.3 percent in 1990 to 19.3 percent in 2000, an annual decline of 1.3 percent. But much of these gains were lost from 2000 to 2006. The percent of African-Americans in poverty jumped from 19.3 percent in 2000 to 24.2 percent in 2006, an annual increase of 0.8 percent. In 2006, only 8.2 percent of whites were in poverty, compared to the 24.2 percent of African-Americans.

Homeownership Rate

African-American homeownership rose at a slower rate between 2000 and 2006 than during the 1990s. From 2000 to 2006, the homeownership rate for African-Americans increased by an average annual growth rate of just 0.1, from 47.2 percent in 2000 to 47.9 percent in 2006. Whites’ homeownership rate, in comparison, increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.3 percent. This trend is in part because African-Americans have actually seen their homeownership rate decline since 2004. This is compared to the 1990s, when African-Americans’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent from 1994 to 2000. Whites’ rate was 0.6 percent during this time. Homeownership data by race are not available before 1994.

Employment Level

African-Americans’ employment rate has grown on average more than 60 percent more slowly since 2000 than it did throughout the 1990s. The robust economy that dominated the later portion of the 1990s allowed the number of employed individuals of all races to grow at steady rates. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of employed African-Americans increased at an average rate of 2.2 percent each year, and the number of employed Whites grew by an average rate of 1.1 percent each year. Yet between 2000 and 2007, the average annual employment growth rate for African-Americans fell by more than 60 percent from 2.2 percent in 2000 to 0.8 percent in 2007; the rate for Whites declined from 1.1 percent to 0.7 percent during the same period.

Employment to Population Ratio

The employment to population ratio for African-Americas has shrunk at a faster rate than Whites’ since 2000 after growing at a faster rate during the 1990s. The employment to population ratio for African-Americans increased by an average of 0.4 percentage points each year between 1990 and 2000, compared to whites’ average growth rate of just 0.1 percentage points each year. Yet since 2000, the employment to population ratio for African-Americans has declined on average by 0.4 percentage points each year-more quickly than whites’ average decline of 0.2 percentage points per year.

Importantly, the employment to population ratio of African-Americans still lags behind that of Whites, standing at 58.4 percent in 2007 compared to 64.9 percent for Whites.

(This story distributed by the National Newspaper Publishers Association courtesy of the Louisiana Weekly.)

*W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special~The State Of Black America 2008*


April 13, 2008~The State Of Black America Part One

April 20, 2008~The State Of Black America Part Two

April 27, 2008~The State Of Black America Part Three

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