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The road to parity: Urban League reports Blacks are slipping

Freddie Allen | 4/22/2013, 11:56 a.m.
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. National Urban League

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Blacks have fallen behind in their efforts to reach parity with Whites in several key areas since 2010, according to the National Urban League’s new State of Black America report.

Each year, the report computes an Equality Index for economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement. Each category was assigned its own weight: economics receives 30 points, health and education each receive 25 points, and social justice and civic engagement each receive 10 points.

When compared to Whites, Blacks scored 71.7 percent on the equality index in 2013 down from the 72.1 percent mark in 2010. Compared to 2010 figures, Blacks lost ground in economics (56.3 percent in 2013 compared to 57.9 percent in 2010) social justice (57.1 percent compared to 57.8 percent in 2010) and civic engagement (99.9 compared to 102.2 percent in 2010).

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 compared to 78.3 percent in 2010) and health (76.9 percent compared to 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 are 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,” Wilson said.

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.”