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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Some Statistics Related to Race and Class in America

Some Statistics Related to Race and Class in America

On June 25, 2010, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the after-tax income gaps between the richest one percent and the middle and poorest fifths in the United States had more than tripled between 1979 and 2007.

The concentration at the top of the income scale was the greatest at any time since 1928, immediately prior to the Great Depression. . . .

On July 1, 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 14.6 million Americans were unemployed, 45.5% of these were long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more), and the official unemployment rate was 9.5 percent.

Another 8.6 million were listed as involuntarily working part-time and 2.6 million more were marginally attached to the economy (they hadn’t looked for work in the four weeks preceding the survey).

Included in this group were 1.2 million “discouraged workers” who had given up looking for work “because they believe no jobs are available for them.”

Overall, the BLS counted 25.8 million workers unemployed/underemployed, some 17 percent of the workforce.

Other workers were turning to the Social Security Administration’s disability program for help and the SSA’s chief actuary predicted “roughly a million more disability applications from 2009 through 2011 than it would have without the recession.”

Approximately 40 million Americans, 13.2% of the population, were living in poverty, fifty percent of children would need food stamps while growing up, over 46 million Americans were without healthcare, home foreclosures hit a record high of 937,840 in the third quarter of 2009, and a newly developed Economic Security Index found that 20 percent of Americans without a financial cushion experienced a 25 percent or greater loss of household income in 2009 (and conditions were expected to worsen).

. . . In addition to recognizing the devastating consequences worldwide, it is especially important to emphasize that poor and working people in the United States are not faring well either.

The World Health Organization reported that “the U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country,” but it ranked 37th in performance.

The Social Security Administration found that “50 percent of wage earners had net compensation [wages, tips, and the like] less than or equal to . . . $26,261.29 [$505 per week/$12.63 per hour pre-tax] for 2009.

America, according to Michelle Alexander in "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" (2010), has “the highest rate of incarceration in the world.”

At a June 2010 Congressional Summit it was reported that “incarceration rates have increased 800 percent in the last 30 years” and that “90 percent of all criminal defendants fall below the poverty line.”

The Economic Policy Institute compared the U.S. to 19 other industrialized countries and found that it had “weaker unions, lower minimum wages, [and] less generous social benefits” than the other countries.

Not only do U.S. workers work more hours than those in these other countries, they do so without statutorily paid public holidays and they are alone amongst this group in not receiving statutorily paid vacation time.

Most significantly, on the two major measures of household income inequality (the Gini coefficient and the ratio of 90th-to-10th percentile), the U.S. showed the greatest inequality.

White Supremacist Shaping

In the United States the suffering and hardship reflected in these and other areas are intensified by racial oppression.

In July 2010 Black unemployment was reported at 15.6%, white unemployment was 8.6%; in 2008 Black poverty was reported at 24.7%, “non-Hispanic White” poverty was 8.6%.

Ninety percent of Black children will be on food stamps at some point while growing up.

Stark racial disparities exist, and in general have increased, in jobs, housing, health care, education, incarceration and every major social and economic indicator measured in the Urban League’s State of Black America 2009.

That report describes “persistent inequalities” in American society and utilizes an “Equality Index” that considers five areas – economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement in order to compare Black to “white” equality (with equality being 100% and an index of less than 100% indicating that Black people are doing worse relative to “whites”).

The overall Equality Index is 71.1%. The index for economics is 57.4%, social justice 60.4%, health 74.4%, education 78.5%, and civic engagement 96.3%.

Incarceration figures are staggering. Black males are incarcerated “at a rate more than six times higher than white males” and Black females at a rate over 3.6 times that of white females.

Alexander, in "The New Jim Crow," emphasizes that “no other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities” and she describes how America has “a set of structured arrangements that locks . . . [African Americans] into a subordinate political, social, and economic position, effectively creating a second class citizenship.”

Jan M. Chaiken, Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found “approximately 30 percent of black men ages 20 to 29 were under correctional supervision” and “a young black man age 18 . . . had a 28.5 percent chance of spending time in prison during his life.” . . .

Marc V. Levine of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in 2009, the most recent year for which data were available, reports that “a staggering 53.3 percent of metro Milwaukee’s working age African American males were not employed: either unemployed, or, for various reasons (including incarceration), not even in the labor force.”

Levine points out that “This is the highest jobless rate among working age black males ever recorded in Milwaukee,” which, he notes, also has “the widest racial disparity in jobless rates among forty of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.”

Milwaukee, though extreme, is not alone, however, and the “jobless” figures for adult Black males in other cities are similar: Detroit – 59.5%, Cleveland – 52.3%, Buffalo – 52.3%, Chicago 50.3%, Pittsburgh 50.3%, and so on.

Sources for these statistics and related historical analysis can be found in Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy,” (“Cultural Logic,” 2010) available online in pdf format at www.jeffreybperry.net (top left) or by Clicking Here
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