The passing of time can cause the tint on the lenses of the looking glass to be rosier than usual, but when it comes to numbers reflecting the economic gains of black Americans in the United States, the lenses are clear; the images sharp and vivid. For while black Americans have made headway in terms of education, income, and employment, there is still more work to be done in order to close the gap on these primary economic variables with American whites.
Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League shared this summary of the current educational and economic state of black America during the NUL’s release of its annual State of Black America report.
“The report indicates that while Blacks have achieved double-digit gains in educational attainment, employment and wealth within the Black community since the Civil Rights Movement, this stands in contrast to single-digit gains against whites”, said Mr. Morial. “In the past 50 years, the Black-White income gap has only closed by seven points, and the unemployment rate gap has only closed by six points. These findings indicate a critical need to reinforce efforts toward sustainable economic empowerment in our most vulnerable communities. If we are to continue on a road to full economic recovery, we must take a closer look at the systemic inequities across education, income, and employment that make these times worse for Blacks and Hispanics in particular.”
The NUL provided in its report certain data that drives home the economic disparity between blacks and whites in America. For example, after equalizing for education and occupation, there is a persistent income gap between whites and blacks. In the public sector where a disproportionate number of black Americans are represented and exposed to potential layoffs resulting from sequestration, black Americans earn $.90 for every dollar that white Americans earn.
In the private sector the gap is a little wider. Black Americans, according to the NUL, earn $.88 for every dollar that whites earn.
In addition, black Americans are less likely to be employed in the highest paying professions. While 18% of white Americans are employed in the management ranks, 11% of blacks have management jobs. Twenty-four percent of white Americans count themselves inside the professional ranks, while only 18% of blacks are employed as professionals.
President John F. Kennedy required his administration take affirmative action to increase the ranks of qualified minorities within the federal government, but in the age of a shrinking government workforce, President Barack Obama may have to take a market based approach to public policy, instituting policy that incentivizes increased hiring of black Americans within the private sector.
Whatever new ideas are embarked upon, let’s not wait until 2063.