good news is the U.S. poverty rate has fallen slightly in recent years.
The bad news is that poverty remains high, particularly for Black
children, and now for the first time there are more Black children in
poverty than white. This news provides further proof that Black
people are being left behind in what is an economic recovery for some,
as institutional racism continues to take its toll on the well being of
society’s most at-risk populations.
to a study released by Pew Research Center, in 2013 Black children were
almost four times more likely to live in poverty than white children.
Further, while childhood poverty fell from 22 percent in 2010 to 20
percent in 2013, it has remained constant for African Americans.
At 38.3 percent, Black children have the highest rate of poverty
among all racial and ethnic groups. White children have a poverty rate
of 10.7 percent, while Asian children have a rate of 10.1 percent and
Latino children have a rate of 30.4 percent. At 5.4 million, Hispanic
children are the poorest in absolute numbers. But for the first time,
the number of impoverished Black children (4.2 million) has surpassed
the number of white kids in poverty (4.1 million), although there are
far more white children than Black children in America.
total of 14.7 million children lived in poverty in 2013, which is
defined as a family of four living on an annual income below $23,624.
The poverty rate is tied to the unemployment rate, the New York Times notes, as children with unemployed parents are more likely to be unemployed. Further, as the Huffington Post reports,
Black unemployment has remained high in the economic recovery at 9.5
percent, compared to 4.7 percent for whites, according to
the latest Department of Labor report. For decades, the
Black jobless rate typically has been double the rate for whites,
reflecting the systemic nature of racism and economic opportunity in
enormous racial wealth gap exists in America, one which has widened
since the Great Recession. As Mike Konczal and Bryce Cover wrote
in The Nation in
January, redlining is the source of the wealth disparities between
Blacks and whites, and the cause of Black America’s financial woes.
segregation deprives black families of the opportunity to build wealth
through their homes. African-American borrowers were twice as likely to
be affected by the foreclosure crisis as white borrowers, in part
because they were preyed upon by lenders peddling high-cost subprime
mortgages during the bubble,” the authors wrote. “These lenders took
advantage of the lack of access that black families have to traditional
and Cover add that the Great Recession “devastated what little ground
black people had gained in building home wealth: by 2010, whites had
six times the wealth of blacks, up from four times the wealth in 2007.
With the housing market’s recovery, the median net worth of white
households today is thirteen times higher than that of black ones.
Median wealth for black families fell 33.7 percent between 2010 and
2013, while white households saw theirs rise.”
high income Black people cannot escape living in communities with high
poverty, they argue, as half of all children in middle-and upper-class
families are raised in impoverished neighborhoods, compared with just 1
percent of whites.
NBC News suggested
in March 2015 that wealth may even be more important than a degree or a
high paying job. According to an analysis of 2011 data, the Black
Americans with college degrees have less in savings and other assets
than white high school dropouts, with the former having only two-thirds
the net worth of the latter.
Further, over half a century since the U.S. Supreme Court school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, public
schools remain segregated, with a system that tracks students of color
and keeps them away from a path to educational achievement. As The Atlantic reported
in November 2014, “You can … look in a classroom and know whether it’s
an upper level class or a lower level class based on the racial
composition of the classroom.”
an effort to prevent wealthy white families from fleeing to private
schools, school systems develop “gifted and talented” and advancement
programs, and relegate Black children to lower-level classes.
recent Pew report sounds the alarm on Black childhood poverty and the
deepening systemic crisis facing the African American community.
With a poverty level of over 38 percent, Black children in
America are the canaries in the coal mine.
This commentary originally appeared in AtlantaBlackStar