The Houston Sun
The National Urban League has released their analysis of the State of Black America, on April 10th which is a survey and statistical data of the economic and educational equality standards of African- Americans for the past 50 years in America.
President of the National Urban League Marc Morial along with Dr. Valerie Wilson, Economist and V.P. of Research Key Findings and Chanelle Hardy,Senior V.P. of Policy and Executive Director of the National Urban League Policy Institute, spoke with the Sun on the 50 year retrospect and top line findings for equality index that focus on problems and equality gaps seen between the black and white communities.
State of Black America and Education:
The high school completion gap has closed by 57 percentage points and there are triple the number of African- Americans enrolled in college today than in 1963. For every graduate in 1963 there are now five, 50 years later.
Fifty years ago, 75 percent of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85 percent of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more African- Americans between 18-24 years old enrolled in college, and five times as many black adults hold a college degree.
“We have closed the college enrollment gap at five times the rate of closing the unemployment rate gap,” said Morial.
State of Black America and Employment:
During the last 50 years, African- Americans remained twice as likely as whites to be unemployed and earn less than two-thirds the income of whites. In many ways, employment remains the biggest barrier to economic equality in America. The unemployment gap has only closed by 6 percentage points and through research the National Urban League saw a 2 to 1 unemployment rate gap that remained very persistent even as they factored in all the situations such as education, economic status, and geographic location.
“We have factored in people with different levels of education and what impact that has on employment opportunities,” said Dr. Valerie Wilson, Economist and V.P. of Research Key Findings. “For example African- American’s with a college degree are four and a half less likely to be unemployed versus an African-American without a college degree or diploma.”
The primary hurdle that the National Urban League feels African- Americans need to overcome is getting a job. Once that is done they believe that findings will show people with similar characteristics tend to have a level of income and economic status that is closer than it would be for both ethnic groups overall.
State of Black America and the Income Equality Gap:
With gains and educational attainment the capacity for African-Americans to climb the economic ladder is evident by the fact that the African-American poverty rate has been cut nearly in half since 1963 and it is also evident aamongst people with different levels of education. Looking in the terms of equality and the outcomes seen for blacks and whites at similar levels of education, age groups and the same region of the country; yet much less progress is seen in terms of closing the disparities between blacks and whites.
“Over time we have not seen the two groups come closer together in terms of economic well being in this country,” said Wilson.
On average, African- Americans enjoy less than three-fourths of the benefits and privileges offered to white Americans. Similarly, with an index of 75.4 percent, Hispanic Americans are experiencing only three-quarters of the full benefits that America has to offer.
Income inequality varies upon where people live, what kind of job they have, whether it is in the public or private sector how many earners are in a household and how that affects the income gap. The study found that based on where you live in the country effects your income. According to The National Urban League the income gap is smaller in the South and largest in the Midwest. Compared to people living in the suburbs to the city, income inequality is greater in the inner city and that’s between blacks and whites.
The Houston Sun posed the question to The National Urban League about why the income gap is smaller in the South than in the Midwest?
“It has a lot to do with the kind of industry and occupations people work in and the extent of the segregation in the workplace in terms of what occupation blacks versus whites are employed, the difference between the types of jobs are based more or less on the education attained in the different regions of the country varies,” said Wilson. “In the South the opportunities for people with a high school diploma or less versus those with higher levels of education and the types of jobs sought, you don’t see much disparity in terms of what they pay but in comparison to the Midwest the kind of occupations the people of the Midwest seek and the different racial groups there tend to find a larger disparity in what those types of occupations pay. It has to do a lot with the industry mixing, with the cost of living and overall levels of education, all of those play a roll in that income gap.”
The State of Black America and Poverty Levels
The anti-poverty efforts since 1963 has significantly raised the leading standards for African- Americans and the percentage of blacks living in poverty has fallen by nearly half (45%), and the percentage of black children living in poverty is down by more than one-third. The percentage of blacks living in poverty has decline by 23 percentage points and the percentage of black kids living in poverty has fallen 22 points.
The National Urban League has solutions for the problems they have noticed in their 50 year assessment of the State of Black America. Marc Morial noted the initiatives the NUL has been working on such as Jobs Rebuild America, which is a five year initiative by the National Urban League and its affiliates to train and help as many people get to work as possible. There will be ten programs under the banner of Jobs Rebuild America that include job training, entrepreneurship, and afterschool programs for teenagers. This will provide job training opportunities for thousands of people and will be available in up to 20 plus cities. The NUL will announce cities and the Jobs Rebuild America opportunities on May 20, 2013 at the Cleveland, Ohio Urban League. There will also be training for those previously incarcerated, training opportunities for older workers over the age of 55, leadership development opportunities for youth and teens, and a wide variety of measure that are designed to enhance financing for small business.
They are also two pieces of Federal legislation that are being introduced to Capitol Hill, The Urban Jobs Act and Project Ready STEM Act.
The Urban Jobs Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and in the House by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA). The Project Ready STEM Act was introduced in the House by the Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marsha Fudge and they are still looking for a Senate sponsor.
“The way the programs would work it would actually provide funding to organizations like the National Urban League and other communities based organizations. Currently organizations are being hit in a serious way by the effects of the federal deficit reduction in Washington with the sequester and with the cuts there are fewer dollars available and fewer community members served; this will ensure that there is funding so those programs can be offered at the most robust level possible,” said Chanelle Hardy, Senior V.P. of Policy and Executive Director of the National Urban League Policy Institute.
The Urban Jobs Act
The Urban Jobs Act is designed to provide a stream of funding necessary support to a population that is largely unreached by current policy strategy. The population between 16 and 24 years- old that are not community college ready are underserved. The community college system has been the beneficiary of the administration’s focus dollars seeking to increase job readiness. This population is made up of high school drop outs, adjudicated youth, foster care and those who have aged out of the system and students who are not ready to benefit from community college programs. Many of these students are not the type to seek a college education at high cost so what we seek to do with the Urban Job Act is to promote a program that takes a multi disciplinary approach to benefitting the population which may include GED training, or other academic skills, mentoring, with a community service component that provides real world on the job training and a wage.
“The strategy for this workforce investment act has been under a reauthorization effort for many years and it is the most important part of job readiness legislation and funding in the congress and it has been awaiting much needed reauthorization for years and our goal is to get it inserted in that package of legislation,” said Hardy.
The Project Ready STEM. Act:
The Project Ready Stems Act is designed for underserved youth who need to be exposed to STEM careers. STEM careers are occupations that deal in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Challenges seen in equality index show that there is a high level of interest in our STEM careers in our community but the problem is the students are not able to take the appropriate course work needed so they have the option to pursue a STEM career at the college level and beyond. Project Ready Stem Act is a middle school enrichment program that buys exposure, training and preparation to the student so they can plot a path to those types of careers.
The National Urban League released their 37th edition of the State of Black America, Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America which also includes a commemorative Special Collection of essays that pay homage to the early freedom fighters in the civil rights movement. This Special Collection includes reflections from those who were in the civil rights and those who have picked up the torch and kept the fight alive. With 50 years in review tells a story of the past while laying out a roadmap for a promising future provided the work continues to be done.