Racial Gaps in Wealth, Education, Employment Remain in Detroit, Nation

A new study forty years after the 1967 riots in Detroit has found that racial gaps remain on a host of issues. Little progress has made on improving the status for people of color despite the recommendations of the now famous Kerner Commission.

The Detroit News has published excerpts of a new report finding that forty years after the famous Kerner Commission–appointed during the 1967 riots in Detroit–concluding that despite the many of the same racial disparities in poverty, education, crime, and unemployment persist. The Kerner Commission was reconvened last year and made metropolitan Detroit–the most segregated region in the United States–its first stop. Following visits to other areas effected by riots in the 1960s including Newark, NJ and Washington, DC, the Commission graded progress for African-Americans in the last forty years, giving a grade of “D+”.

The Detroit News reported the following:

* “Some employers still “steer” minority applicants into the worst jobs; real estate agents send them to less desirable neighborhoods and mortgage lenders accept fewer applications than those from similar whites.

* Unemployment and underemployment were the most important causes of poverty, yet African-American unemployment has remained twice as high as white unemployment during each of the four decades since 1968. About 37 million Americans live in poverty, while 46 million Americans are without health insurance.

* Educational disparities remain linked to funding. The wealthiest 10 percent of school districts in the United States spend nearly 10 times more than the poorest 10 percent.

* Poor African-Americans are three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to live in deep poverty, below half of the poverty line.

* Minorities receive longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.”

The report calls for a series of recommendations including raising the minimum wage, passing laws that would require the Federal Reserve to take action when unemployment rises above 4%, passing laws to make it easier to form unions, increasing funding for job training and college scholarships for low income students, and making school funding more equitable.

Additional statistics from the report:


* 37 million Americans live in poverty today, in the richest country in history.

* 46 million Americans are without health insurance, and 36 percent of the poor are unprotected.

* The child poverty rate has increased slightly, from 15 percent in 1968 to 17 percent in 2006.

* For young children (below 5 years old) the poverty rate is almost 21 percent today.

* The American child poverty rate is about 4 times the average poverty rate for Western European countries.

* Poverty has deepened for those who have remained poor. The proportion of the poor below half the poverty line was about 30 percent in 1975 and 43 percent in 2006.

* Poor African Americans are 3 times as likely and poor Hispanics twice as likely as non- Hispanic Whites to live in deep poverty, below half the poverty line.

* The poverty rate has declined for African Americans since the Kerner Commission, but poverty in African American female headed households with children under 18 was almost 44 percent in 2006.

* The Kerner Commission found that unemployment and underemployment were the most important causes of poverty, yet African American unemployment has continued to be twice as high as White unemployment during each of the 4 decades since 1968.

* The employment prospects of the nation’s out-of-school 16-24 year old men have declined considerably since 2000. The problem is especially acute for young African American men. Among high school drop outs aged 19, only 38 percent of African Americans are employed, compared to 67 percent of Whites.

Inequality: Income and Wealth

* The top 1 percent of the population (300,000 Americans) now receives as much income as the lower one-half of the population (150 million Americans).

* Since the late 1970s, the real after tax income of those at the top of the income scale has grown by 200 percent, while it has grown by 15 percent for those in the middle and 9 percent for those at the bottom.

* A recent Brookings Institution study on mobility found that 68 percent of White children from middle income families grew up to surpass their parents’ income in real terms. But that share was only 31 percent for middle income African American children – demonstrating downward mobility.

* America has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the industrialized world.

* In terms of wealth, America is the most unequal country in the industrialized world.

Inequality: Wages

* Over the last 40 years, America has had the most rapid growth in wage inequality in the industrialized world.

* Since the 1970s, productivity has increased significantly in America, but wages have increased little in real terms. Corporations are not sharing profits with workers, as had been more the case, for example, in the late 1960s. From November 2001 through July 2006, worker wages grew at an annual rate of 1.6 percent, while profits grew at an annual rate of 14.4 percent.

* In the 1960s, the average CEO earned about 40 times more than the average worker. Today, the average CEO earns about 360 times as much.

* Among full time workers, Whites earn over 22 percent more than equivalent African American workers and almost 34 percent more than equivalent Hispanic workers.

Inequality: Education

* In science achievement tests in 2003, American students ranked 20th out of 40 countries.

* Large disparities remain in America between the educational achievement of White and Asian American high school students compared to Latino and African American high school students.

* American educational disparities remain linked to funding disparities. The wealthiest 10 percent of school districts in the U.S. spend nearly 10 times more than the poorest 10 percent.

* In the U.S., the highest performing students from low income families now enroll in college at the same rate as the lowest performing students from high income families. In other words, the smartest poor kids attend college at the same rate as the dumbest rich kids.

* The American educational system allocates more unequal inputs and produces more unequal outcomes than most other industrialized nations.

Racial Injustice

* The likelihood for the death sentence is greater for minorities than Whites. Minorities receive longer sentences than Whites for the same crimes. Sentences for crack cocaine, used disproportionately by minorities, have been much longer than sentences for powder cocaine, used disproportionately by Whites.

* There is continuing evidence from distinguished scholars that some employers “steer” minority applicants into the worst jobs regardless of their qualifications; that many real estate agents steer minorities to less desirable locations, compared to Whites; and that lenders treat minorities differently from Whites in terms of percentage of mortgage applications accepted.

* School desegregation proceeded rapidly in America from the 1960s to the 1980s and then was dramatically reversed by the courts.

* Residential segregation declined overall for African Americans in the 1990s but it rose for African Americans below age 18.

* Hispanic residential segregation increased in many major metropolitan areas from 1980 to 2000.

* Overall levels of residential segregation remain high for African Americans and Latinos.


* The percent of Americans reporting fear of walking alone at night has increased from about 31 percent in 1967 to about 38 percent in 2006.

* The most accurately reported crime is homicide. The homicide rate in the 1960s was roughly the same as it is today (5.1 per 100,000 in 1960, 6.2 in 1967 and 5.7 in 2006).

* This is so in spite of an eight fold increase in the total population of persons in prisons and jails since the late 1960s. Well over 2,000,000 persons now are in American prisons and jails. America has the highest reported rate of incarceration in the world.

* African American men aged 25 to 29 are almost 7 times as likely to be incarcerated as their White counterparts.

* Today, the rate of incarceration of African American men in the U.S. is 4 times higher than the rate of incarceration of African American men in South Africa during the pre-Nelson Mandela apartheid government.

* A prison-industrial complex has developed. The states collectively now spend more on prison construction than on construction for higher education.

* A disproportionate number of ex-offenders return from prison to a small number of heavily impacted communities.

* The national recidivism rate for persons released from prison is over 67 percent.

* The late 1990s decline in violent crime has recently reversed in many cities, based on a report by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org