Black Middle Class


Resentment And Race In Reducing Government

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The U.S. Postal Service is planning a downsizing, which could disproportionately hurt African Americans,

The black middle class has been hit particularly hard by the recession; many of the economic gains earned over 50 years disappeared between 2007 and 2009.

The foreclosure crisis, lack of accumulated  wealth and the role of a college education in boosting job prospects have all contributed to the decline of the black middle class. Another big factor: cuts to government jobs. Much of the black middle class was built upon public sector jobs, which for decades allowed African Americans to circumvent discrimination in the private sector.

African Americans are over-represented in government jobs [PDF]. So even as the economy slowly adds jobs, government job losses continue to rack up, disproportionately affecting African Americans. Reducing government has been a hot political topic since 2010, particularly with the surge of the tea party movement, which has been accused of having racist undertones. But NPR points out that 70 percent of government job cuts happened in 12 states, all with Republican-controlled legislative bodies, and suggests that such job cuts have fostered resentment among African Americans. From NPR:

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Five Facts About Race, Poverty and Health Insurance

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Poverty rates have reached their highest levels since 1993, with 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty in 2010, according to new census data released today. But not all groups have been affected equally.

Here’s what we’ve gleaned from the latest U.S. Census Bureau data dump, which includes information on the racial groups most likely to live in poverty, be without insurance or see drops in household income:

Who had the lowest poverty rate? Whites.

White people had the lowest poverty rate in 2010, at 9.9 percent. The percentage of whites living in poverty didn’t change much between 2009 and 2010, but household income did drop slightly.

Which group is hit hardest by poverty? African Americans.

We know the black middle class was particularly hit hard by the recession, but it’s not just the middle class that’s feeling disproportionate effects. More than a quarter of African Americans live in poverty, and the rate is rising faster than that of any other group.

Which group saw the biggest increase in the uninsured? Asians.

The percentage of Asians without health insurance increased to 18.1 percent, while it remained relatively stable for whites, blacks and Hispanics. However, Hispanics are still the most likely to be without insurance; nearly 1 in 3 don’t have coverage.

Are naturalized citizens less likely to live in poverty? Yes.

The poverty rate for immigrants who have become U.S. citizens is 11.3 percent. But that rate is more than double for the foreign-born who haven’t become citizens.

Who has the largest household income? Asians.

Households headed by an Asian had the largest median income in 2010, at $64,308, which is more than double the amount for African Americans. The median household income for whites was $54,620 in 2010. Measuring median income gives a more accurate picture of the state of a particular community because it controls for the very poor and the very rich — so people like Oprah and Bill Gates can’t skew the picture.


Five Factors Causing the ‘Decimation’ of the Black Middle Class

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson (L) hold the hands of Angela Walker (R) in Suitland, Md. after a rally against foreclosures in the hard-hit, majority-black county. Walker is recently unemployed and facing foreclosure.

The recession from 2007 to 2009 has hit nearly all sectors and communities in the American economy, but minorities, and particularly African Americans, may have been affected the most. Jesse Washington’s recent Associated Press story about how the recession reversed many of the economic gains that took the black community many years to attain contains some grim statistics: in 2009, the average black household had only 2 cents for every dollar of wealth held by the average white household, and in April 2010, black male unemployment hit its highest point since the government began tracking it in 1972.

“History is going to say that the black middle class was decimated,” Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion, tells Washington. “But we’re not done writing history.”

What has led to such extreme losses? Here are five factors contributing to the “decimation” of the black middle class: