Sunday, July 10, 2011

Black economic gains reversed in the Great Recession

The headline in The Washington Post says it all: "After decades of hard-fought progress, black economic gains were reversed in the Great Recession."

But the figures are just astonishing:
Economists say the Great Recession lasted from 2007 to 2009. In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median black net worth had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the EPI.

Algernon Austin, director of the EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, described the wealth gap this way: “In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.”

Since the end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor.

After generations of slavery, segregation, and institutional bigotry, blacks had started clawing themselves out of desperate poverty. Keep in mind that these were often people raised in poverty, people who knew no other life, poorly educated in bad schools, raised in crime-ridden slums, and still suffering from widespread bigotry.

Look at those figures again. Look at the difference between white and black households. Even before this economic collapse, the difference was incredible - and shameful. And now, with giveaways to the wealthy (overwhelmingly white) paid for by cuts in social programs and jobs,... well, as an American, I'm deeply ashamed.

Is it any wonder that people give up?

You know, we didn't lose the war on poverty. We just quit.

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