Blacks still face economic challenges


Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.

Washington

African-Americans have achieved tremendous gains in education over the past 50 years, but that has yet to translate into major progress toward economic equality, the National Urban League says in its latest State of Black America report.

This year’s report, “Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America,” identifies unemployment as the biggest barrier to that progress. It also marks milestones in black history since 1963, the height of the civil rights movement.

According to the report, released last Wednesday during the league’s annual legislative conference, 75 percent of black adults had not completed high school 50 years ago, compared with 15 percent of black adults today. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more blacks aged 18-24 enrolled, and five times as many black adults who hold a college degree.

Overall, the standard of living for black Americans improved significantly, due mainly to better access to educational and employment opportunities, the report says. It credits those opportunities to the passage of civil rights laws and affirmative action policies. But there has been much less change between blacks and whites on the economic ladder, with indicators such as employment, income and home ownership.

On average, blacks remain twice as likely as whites to be unemployed and earn less than two-thirds the income of whites. For every dollar that whites earn, blacks earn 60 cents, the report said.

On average, African-Americans enjoy 71.7 percent, or fewer than three-fourths, of the benefits and privileges that are offered to white Americans. These include education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement.

The report derives its numbers from an “equality index” that is based on nationally collected data from agencies, including the Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Urban League has launched a $70 million initiative, “Jobs Rebuild America,” to help get unemployed African-Americans back to work. The public-private partnership is creating and expanding some the group’s programs in job training, education, finance, career counseling, entrepreneurship and youth mentoring in about 30 cities.

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