African-American college graduation rates hit all-time high, but economic outcomes lag

By Kari Paul – Market Watch

After the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 assassination sparked riots across the U.S., President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned a report to examine the roots of unrest in black communities. The primary cause? “White racism” leading to discrimination in unemployment, education and housing, the report found.

Some 50 years later, despite milestones including the election of America’s first black president, the economic landscape has barely changed for black Americans, a new report released this week by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal, nonprofit Washington, D.C., think tank, found.

“In almost all areas, it is about the same, and in other areas there is actually lost ground,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the EPI’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy and an author of the study. “We have not seen nearly as much progress in economic outcomes as we might expect given the gains in other outcomes.”

At 7.5%, the unemployment rate among African-Americans in 2017 was more than twice the rate of white unemployment and 0.8 percentage points higher than it was in 1968. That finding runs counter to the positive narrative about black unemployment that President Donald Trump presented during his State of the Union address.

Here’s what else the EPI report found:

• Only 40% of black Americans own homes in the U.S., virtually unchanged since 1968 and a full 30 percentage points lower than the home-ownership rate among white Americans.

• The rate of incarceration for black Americans is more than six times that of white Americans today, and it tripled between 1968 and 2016.

• The hourly wage for black Americans rose 30.5% between 1968 and 2016, but as of 2016 black workers made only 82.5 cents for every dollar white Americans made.

• Meanwhile, household income for the average black family increased 42.8% since 1968, but remains only 61.6% of that of the typical white household.

• In 1968, more than one-third (34.7%) of black Americans lived in poverty, and today the share is just one in five (21.4%). Black Americans are still 2.5 times as likely to be in poverty as whites.

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