“What is the State of Black America?” This question is so complex that every year the National Urban League provides an answer in their annual publication entitled the State of Black America. This year’s publication, the 37th edition, is entitled the State of Black America, Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America. This year’s publication not only tackles the question of the status of black America, but also offers solutions on how to improve our status by rebuilding America’s workforce. In addition, the publication features essays from thought-provoking leaders in corporations, not-for-profit organizations, academic, media, and federal lawmakers including Attorney General Eric Holder, the Honorable John Lewis, Marian Wright Edelman, and Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever.
This year, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the National Urban League took a look at economic and educational equality in America through the lens of the Equality Index. The Equality Index addresses social and economic equality through the viewpoints of three nationally renowned activists: Janet Murguia, President & CEO of the National Council of La Raza; Gail C. Christopher, Vice President of Programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and John A. Powell, Executive Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (HIFIS) and Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion at the University of California, Berkeley.
Since 1963, blacks have experienced outstanding gains in educational attainment. Fifty years ago, 75% of blacks had not completed high school. Today, 85% of black adults have a high school education. There are now 3.5 times more black adults between the ages of 18-24 enrolled in college, and 5 times as many black adults hold a college degree. Due to the Civil Rights movement and affirmative action policies put into place, the increase of educational and employment opportunities have dramatically increased the standard of living for black Americans. Today, the percentage of black Americans living in poverty has fallen to 45% and the percentage of black children living in poverty is down by 1/3.
However, despite evolving gains, we still have a long way to go. The total 2013 Equality Index of Black America stands at 71.7%, which means that black Americans enjoy less than ¾ of the benefits and privileges offered to white Americans. Likewise, Hispanic Americans have an index of 75.4%.
The 2013 State of Black America uses the Equality Index to assess current racial gaps in unemployment and income in relation to variances in education, economic status, and geographic location. One takeaway from the publication, employment remains the biggest barrier to economic equality in America which is something the National Urban League empowers our communities to address.