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All Da King's Men

A Real Conversation About Race, Part II

By David King Published: July 25, 2013

I think most everyone would agree that the main problem facing black people in America is poverty. According to the National Poverty Center, in 2010, 38.2% of black children were living below the poverty line, as compared to only 12.4% of white children. 35% of Hispanic children were below the poverty line, along with 13.6% of Asian children.

This poverty disparity along racial lines is partially, but not completely, explained by differences in unemployment rates. According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2010 unemployment statistics for the different racial groups were: Black - 16%, Hispanic - 12.5%, White - 8.7%, Asian - 7.5%. From this, we could extrapolate that black/Hispanic poverty should be roughly double white/Asian poverty - but black poverty is TRIPLE that of white/Asian poverty. Unemployment statistics alone don't fully explain things. There must be a difference in the quality of black jobs as compared to white/Asian jobs in addition to the difference in the quantity of jobs. This can be verified by looking at median income by race. The statistics bear out the difference in job quality. From the Census Bureau, the 2009 median income for white families was $62,545. The median income for Asian families was $75,027. For black families it was $38,409. Thus, black families have fewer jobs as well as lower paying jobs. This is the situation that needs to be addressed.

How do we do it ? It's a challenge in America today to create enough decent-paying jobs period ( a subject for another post), but there are some key indicators that lead to unemployment, low-paying jobs, and poverty.

First is a lack of education. While everyone is America has access to at least a high school eduction, though the quality varies widely, not everyone is taking advantage of it. There are significant differences in graduation rates. From Slate:

The NCES [National Center For Education Statistics] broke down the graduation rates by race and ethnicity as well. Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest four-year graduation rate at 93.5 percent, followed by Caucasian students (83.0 percent), Hispanic students (71.4 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native students (69.1 percent), and Black students (66.1 percent).

It's vastly more difficult to enter the job market and work your way up without at least a high school diploma, and black people have the lowest graducation rates, significantly behind Asians and whites. This is the first thing that must change if we are to address black poverty.

Next is perhaps the #1 leading cause of poverty - broken homes. This holds true for everyone regardless of race. Another way to put it is, marriage is a great anti-poverty tool. According to the Census Bureau, only 6.8% of married, two parent families have children living in poverty, whereas 37.1% of unmarried families headed by a single female have children living in poverty. Nowhere has the breakdown of the traditional family been more catastrophic than in black families, where the illegitimacy rate is now over 72%. For whites it is around 28%.

Educational disparity and illegitimacy almost completely explain the differences in employment and poverty rates between blacks and whites if we look at the statistics. Until we can eliminate those differences, we will never know what other factors come into play.

What follows from a lack of job opportunities and ensuing poverty is what I mentioned in my last post - high crime rates and high incarceration rates, along with an exploding welfare state that, in my opinion, is the very reason for the breakdown of the traditional family, especially in the black community. Prior to the creation of the welfare state in the 1960's, the black marriage rate was equal to or higher than the white marriage rate. While this country has made much progress regarding civil rights when compared to the bad old days of slavery and Jim Crow, we have also inadvertently (or intentionally) unleashed a destructive social monster that perversely rewards people for making the wrong choices in life (dropout and have illegitimate kids, and the government will pay for your food, housing, health care, utilities, etc). That leads to generational poverty, because welfare from the government may keep you alive, but it won't lead you out of poverty, ever. It doesn't lead to opportunity. America's ghettos are the result. We should be a lot smarter than we are, if we really do care about the future of minorities in this country. We've been battling poverty the same way for about 50 years now, and it is clearly failing.

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