Economic and social equality for African-Americans improved slightly this year, driven by gains seen in several economic measures, including growth for Black women’s earnings and in the number of Black-owned businesses, according to a new report from the National Urban League (NUL), a prominent U.S. civil rights organization. But the gains may not be long-lived, it warns.
NUL today released the latest edition of its 2017 “State of Black America” status report, which compares the access African-American men and women have to opportunities and public resources in comparison to their white counterparts.
Overall, the organization says its Equality Index for Black America stands at 72.3 percent, meaning that African-Americans lag behind white Americans by just over 25 percent. In 2016, the index came in at 72.2 percent.
To arrive at its index values, researchers at the organization process numerous data points related to the economic, education and health conditions for Americans of different races, including national unemployment rates and income levels.
The improvement in Black economic conditions “came primarily through continued improvements in the Black unemployment rate in the ongoing [economic] recovery,” the report’s summary states. “A boost in Black women’s earnings, a decline in the share of Blacks with high-price loans and growth in the percentage of Black-owned businesses also contributed positively to the change.”
Indeed, “recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, but it has been real,” NUL president Marc H. Morial says in the report. However, he cautions, “now that progress, and much more, is threatened.”
Morial considers potential cuts to public school funding and to government departments overseeing health and housing to be troubling for the African-American community in particular. Such moves “would devastate already vulnerable citizens and working families,” he says.
A preliminary budget proposal released in March by President Donald Trump suggests reductions in funding to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration, the Education Department and numerous other government agencies.
To preserve gains and make further progress, the NUL offers in the report a multi-pronged plan to help African-Americans achieve greater equality for themselves and future generations. Among its suggestions are enacting a minimum wage of at least $15, creating new micro-financing opportunities for entrepreneurs, and expanding summer youth employment programs around the nation.
To learn more about the NUL’s findings, and how they arrived at them, you may read the report online.