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Census Bureau: Blacks Remained at Economic Rock Bottom Last Year

August 31, 2007 by  
Filed under Health, News

WASHINGTON ( – Black people in America had less health care last year than they did in 2005 and they remained at the economic rock bottom of America – also below Hispanic-Americans.

According to a report released Tuesday by the U. S. Census Bureau, the median household incomes for Black families remained last year at $32,000, the same as it was in 2005. That’s $5,800 less than Hispanic families, which remained at $37,800 and $20,400 less than White families, which remained at $52,400.

Poverty rates in 2006 were no better for African-Americans.

While the poverty rate decreased by 1. 2 percent for Hispanic-Americans (21.8 to 20.6); poverty rates remained statically unchanged for Whites, 8.2 percent; or for Blacks at 24.3 percent. Poverty rates for Blacks in 2006 were 3.7 percent higher than Hispanic-Americans and 16.1 percent higher than Whites.

The annual report, based on compilations of 2006 data is called “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006.”

Economists say it’s America as usual.

“The data are just not surprising. You don’t even have to see the data to know that African-American people are at the bottom. All you have to do is walk a neighborhood to see the number of unemployed,” says economist Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. “In my position, I literally see the result of us being at the bottom in terms of how my students struggle with issues around financial aid. You have so many who in April when they filled out financial aid applications, their parents had good jobs. In August by the time they come to school, their parents may have lost their jobs.”

Also, according to the Census report, Blacks experienced an 8.5 percent increase in the number of people who have no health care (from 7 million to 7.6 million). The number of uninsured Hispanics increased from 14 million (32.3 percent) to 15.3 million (34.1 percent); and the number of uninsured Whites remained unchanged over the past two years, at 10.8 percent (21.2 million.).

Overall Census findings for 2006 are:

    • The number of uninsured children increased from 8 million (10.9 percent) in 2005 to 8.7 million (11.7 percent) in 2006.

    • Overall, median household income in the U. S. climbed to $48,200 between 2005 and 2006.

    • The nation’s overall poverty rate declined for the first time since 2000, from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 percent in 2006. There were 36.5 million people in poverty in 2006.

    • About 9.8 percent (7.7 million) of the nation’s families were in poverty in 2006. Married-couple families had a poverty rate of 4.9 percent (2.9 million), compared to 28.3 percent (4.1 million) for female-householder (no-husband-present families), and 13.2 percent (671,000) for those with a male householder with no wife present. Those poverty rates remained steady between 2005 and 2006.

    • The number of people without health insurance coverage overall rose from 44.8 million (15.3 percent) in 2005 to 47 million (15.8 percent) in 2006.

Bill Spriggs, chairman of the Howard University Economics Department, says rock bottom numbers for African-Americans are nothing new.

“We’ve been looking bad,” Spriggs says. What is more alarming he says, is “the extent to which inequality continues to grow because median incomes at least held steady from 2005 to 2006. But, all of the gains -relative gains – were at the top. So, we’ve had this continuous shift of more income at the top and we’ve had this continued growth of people who don’t have health insurance.”

The changes could come as African-Americans make more demands, Spriggs says.

He says while the Congressional Black Caucus is working hard to increase incomes and health care for Black people, many Black people don’t live in CBC districts.

“So, we must ask, ‘What am I doing to make my representative more responsible? Are they towing the line with the president?”’ he quizzes.

Malveaux says though African-Americans may not be surprised by the Census numbers, they should be inspired to mobilize.

“The Census data confirms what many African-Americans have been feeling, which is that we have been at the bottom economically, that economic injustice remains, that there’s too much poverty in our community and too much unemployment and public policy has failed to address these issues,” Malveaux says.

“African-American people need to organize, organize, organize…It seems to me that in terms of issues of poverty, it’s raised and then it’s dropped, it’s raised and then it’s dropped. Systematic structure of our economy is one that is unfair. It generates poverty and inequality and we have to figure out ways to fix it.”

By Hazel Trice Edney

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