State of Black America? Grim, National Urban League says; ‘wealth disparity has gotten wider’

‘What it tells me is that this institutional disparity based on race seems to be built into American society,’ says Marc Morial, the organization’s president.

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Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, whose latest report on the state of Black America found that Black people still get only 73.9% of the American pie white people enjoy. racism that’s made life harder in many ways for people of color.

Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, whose latest report on the state of Black America found that Black people still get only 73.9% of the American pie white people enjoy. Morial says the index shows how hard it is to overcome systemic racism that’s made life harder in many ways for people of color.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The National Urban League’s yearly report on the “State of Black America” paints a grim picture, with its “Equality Index” showing Black people still get only 73.9% of the American pie that white people enjoy.

Black people have made economic and health gains but have slipped further behind white people in education, social justice and civic engagement since the index was launched in 2005.

A compendium of average outcomes by race in many aspects of life, it shows how hard it is for people of color to overcome systemic racism, the civil rights organization says.

“These numbers change so little and so slowly,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “What it tells me is that this institutional disparity based on race seems to be built into American society.”

According to the index, the median household income for Black people, at $43,862, is 37% lower than that of white people, at $69,823.

Black people also are less likely to benefit from home ownership, widely seen as the engine of generational wealth in America. Census data show Black couples are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be denied a mortgage or a home improvement loan, which leads to just 59% of the median home equity white households have and just 13% of their wealth.

“In that area of wealth, we’ve seen almost no change, none, since the civil rights days,” Morial said. “The wealth disparity has gotten wider.”

Among dozens of health measures, one stands out: Life expectancy has declined slightly for African Americans. A Black child born today can expect to live to 74.7 — four years less than a white baby.

And lifelong inequities loom: Black women are 59% more likely to die as a result of bearing a child and 31% more likely to die of breast cancer. Black men are 52% more likely to die of prostate cancer.

Overdoses afflict the races about equally, while white people are 55% more likely to drink themselves to death through cirrhosis or chronic liver disease. Among people 15 to 24, white people are more than twice as likely to kill themselves, and Black men are nine times more likely to die as a result of a homicide.

Educational gaps abound. Black and white preschoolers are roughly equally prepared, but the classrooms they enter are starkly different. Schools with more minority students are more likely to have inexperienced, less trained or even uncertified teachers. Fewer of these students are enrolled in the STEM classes that can lead to higher-paying jobs. Black students are less likely to graduate from college.

The index uses Justice Department statistics to chart social justice differences, noting that Black people have been more than twice as likely as white people to experience threats or uses of force during police encounters and three times more likely to be jailed if arrested. In 2020, they were 93% more likely to be victims of hate crimes.

Measuring civic engagement, the index cites 2020 census data showing white people are about 5% more likely to be registered to vote and to actually vote than Black people.

Morial chose to release the report in Atlanta, where a concentration of historically Black colleges have long represented high achievement among African Americans, in part because the survey found a declining faith among young people that voting can make a difference. The Urban League is responding by launching a “Reclaim Your Vote” campaign.

“Georgia is ground zero for voter suppression,” Morial said. “The legislature’s actions after Jan. 6 have been sweeping in their aggressiveness to suppress the vote. We’ve got to remain resolute, to push back against this. We cannot give in. We cannot give up.”

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