Equality Index Shows Growing Gap Between Blacks and Whites

3-26-09, 9:18 am

In its recently published annual report titled 'The State of Black America' for 2008 and 2009, the National Urban League reported a growing equality gap between African Americans and whites. According to the report's Equality Index, which compiles data on major economic and social indicators, the status of Blacks declined from 71.5 percent of in 2008 to 71.1 percent in 2009.

According to the report, the only area in which the gap narrowed over the past year was in health care. This narrowing of inequality, however, resulted not from improved access to affordable, quality health care by African Americans, but by a significant decline in health care coverage for whites.

Among the major indicators included in the Equality Index over the past six years, poverty and rates of homeownership worsened for African Americans but improved for whites. Both groups made improvements in educational accomplishments, but progress proved to be slower for Blacks. Data revealed, however, that Blacks continued to lag in access to early childhood education, the report found.

The report also compared trends in status by race during previous economic recovery periods. The numbers showed Blacks and whites experienced similar trends in key areas like median household income, poverty, unemployment and home ownership.

During the so-called economic recovery from 2001- 2007, both Blacks and whites saw a decline in real median household income and an increase in the rate of poverty. Real median household income from 2001 - 2007 declined 1.7 percent for Blacks and 3.9 percent for whites, and poverty rates increased 7.9 percent for Blacks and 5.1 percent for whites.

By contrast, during the 1990s while trends were still similar, African Americans saw much greater progress. For the duration of the economic expansion in the 1990s, real median household income grew by 23.6 percent for African Americans and 13 percent for whites, while poverty rates declined by 30.6 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

According to the a press statement from the National Urban League with the release of the report, the new data 'reminds the country that the election of President Obama does not mean the work of civil rights is done.'

“The election of the first Black president does not mean we can all now close up shop and go home,” said the National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial. “Instead, it’s more important than ever that the National Urban League and other organizations and individuals committed to positive change work even harder to lift up our communities and move this country forward.”

“For the first time we have a president whose political base is in a city so we feel that he can better understand the issues and concerns of urban America,” Morial said. “We want to make sure that we work with the administration to ensure that urban America is included in the policies coming forth to help this country recover economically. Only then can we begin to close the equality gap.”

Martin Luther King, III, also noted in the report's introduction that Obama's 'election is not the fulfillment of the Dream. ... The American narrative cannot realize its greatest promise unless the narratives of all its peoples are part of that promise. In other words, realizing the American Dream must be a complete possibility for every American.”

Accompanying the report, the National Urban League released a public message to President Obama containing three main recommendations that can help narrow the gaps in major social indicators between Blacks and whites.

The message recommended meaningful efforts to ensure the inclusion of all workers of all races and backgrounds in the 'Green Jobs Revolution.' Investments should be made in job training and job creation in communities with large populations of disadvantaged workers, especially urban areas.

The message also called for addressing the disproportionate impact of the housing crisis on African Americans by passing a 'homebuyers Bill of Rights.' Such a law should help protect new homebuyers from predatory lenders by providing financial literacy workshops, credit counseling, fair housing advocacy and foreclosure prevention efforts, especially in underserved minority communities.

Finally, the NUL message recommended closing the educational funding gap 'so all children have the same opportunity to learn and excel.' Currently, suburban school districts typically have much higher per-student funding than urban communities that disproportionately serve minority families.

Readers can access the report at the National Urban League's website.