National Urban League report details slip on road to parity

NNPA@tri-statedefender.com | 4/16/2013, 5:15 a.m.

Blacks also trailed Hispanics who scored 75.6 percent on the Equality Index. Hispanics scored higher than blacks in health (101.2 percent) and economics (60.8 percent and social justice (61.9 percent).

Blacks made strides in education (79.6 percent vs. 78.3 percent in 2010) and health (76.9 percent vs. 76.7 percent in 2010).

"Educational attainment is where we see the biggest gains over the past half-century, thanks to affirmative action and early investments in educational programs such as Head Start," wrote Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Since 1963, blacks have narrowed the black-white high school completion gap by 57 percent. Today, there more than three times as many blacks attending college than there were 50 years ago and five times as many college graduates.

Despite these remarkable gains in education, economic disparities linger.

"While education dramatically improves one's chances of being employed – black college graduates are 4.5 times less likely to be unemployed compared to black high school dropouts – very little of the average difference between black and white unemployment rates can be explained by differences in education," wrote Valerie Rawlston Wilson, chief economist for the National Urban League Policy Institute.

In fact, Wilson said, after taking differences in education into account along with differences in age (or experience), occupation, industry and region of the country explains just one-fifth of the average difference between black and white unemployment rates.

In an interview, Wilson said that even though black college graduates have a much lower unemployment rate than those who didn't finish high school, the unemployment rate for black college graduates is still twice the jobless rate for white college graduates.

"Despite the progress that we've made in terms of educational attainment and educational achievement we haven't seen that level of progress matched on the economic front in terms of employment opportunities and income growth," said Wilson.

The National Urban League's 2013 State of Black America report included a collection of essays written by black luminaries that highlighted the key areas addressed by the National Urban League's Equality Index.

"Today, Americans are not being attacked by vicious canines or thrown up against brick walls with fire hoses," wrote Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. "Many of the injustices of today have a much more delicate face and are talked about under new, more subtle names."

Fudge continued: "One new name is 'debt and deficit reduction' at the expense of seniors' health and well being, and our children's education. Another is the fight against full implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act that guarantees access to healthcare for all Americans."

Michael K. Fauntroy, an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University in Virginia and former analyst at the Congressional Research Service, wrote that even though the black voter turnout rate exceeded whites in 2012, there is still plenty room for improvement.

"According to U.S. Census Bureau data, there are roughly 26.6 million voting-age eligible African Americans as of 2008; of that number 16.68 million (or 62.7 percent) cast ballots in 2012," wrote Fauntroy.