Blacks left behind as economy improves, Urban League says
Report indicates gap with whites in well-being
NEW YORK -- Even though the economy has picked up, stubborn gaps between blacks and whites remain -- a reality highlighted by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the National Urban League reports in a new study.
''Two years ago, we saw that things were tough, but there was a recession," Urban League president Marc H. Morial said. ''Now that things are better, we're still suffering. The jobless recovery is a real thing for black Americans."
The Urban League's annual State of Black America report, released yesterday, pulls together government data and academic analysis to measure black progress and problems. The nearly 300-page report includes charts, essays, and suggested policy changes.
For three years, blacks' overall well-being compared with whites has stagnated, the report says. Although some African-Americans are prospering, in economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement, blacks generally fare about three-quarters as well as whites, the report noted, citing figures from Global Insight Inc., an economic analysis company.
Government data indicate that black Americans have more than double the rates of infant mortality, unemployment, and poverty as whites, the report also notes.
Owning a home is the way most Americans accumulate wealth, writes Lance Freeman, a Columbia University urban planning professor. In 2004, 49.1 percent of blacks owned homes, the highest rate ever. Still, that was 25 percentage points lower than for whites, and blacks' homes were worth less, Freeman writes. Census data in 2000 indicated that blacks had barely one-10th the net worth of whites.
Another essay analyzes causes and effects of the nation's ballooning prison rolls. George Curry, an editor at the National Newspaper Publishers Association, writes that harsher laws for drug offenders led to a doubling of prison and jail populations in the 1990s.
Curry cites a Justice Policy study which found that, by 2000, there were more African-American men in prison and jail (791,600) than in higher education (603,000).
''When we send [students] to college instead of prison," Curry writes, ''we strengthen them, their families, and our country in the process."
Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, writes that the nation's attention was turned to the plight of poor Americans during Hurricane Katrina. He called the storm and flood that hit the Gulf Coast last August ''this generation's Bloody Sunday," referring to the March 1965 civil rights march in Alabama that focused the nation's attention on racial segregation in the South.
''Unfortunately," he writes, ''the initial flurry of concern and attention to poverty and injustice has given way to the status quo."