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Are African-Americans Locked Out? State of Black America Report

The National Urban League's 2016 State of Black America Report offers a reminder of the racial disparities dividing blacks and whites across the U.S.
2016 State of Black America "Locked Out" report.
2016 State of Black America "Locked Out" report.Courtesy SOBA

The National Urban League's 2016 State of Black America Report, 'Locked Out: Education, Jobs, & Justice,' which was released on Tuesday, offers a sobering reminder of the deep racial disparities in housing, employment, and education that still divides blacks and whites across America.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said the report mirrors the past.

"The similarities of the United States of 1976 and the United States of 2016 are profoundly striking," Morial said during the release of the report in Washington, D.C. "We are now, as we were then, a nation struggling to overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. All gears have been thrown into reverse."

"We are now, as we were then, facing growing pressure to slash human needs programs for the poor, who are demonized and characterized as lazy slackers trying to cheat the system," Morial said.

He added that unemployment and joblessness "is just one of the many injustices that keep our cities locked out.

"Behind these statistics are real people," he said.

2016 State of Black America "Locked Out" report.
2016 State of Black America "Locked Out" report.Courtesy SOBA

Highlights of the report reveal that black rates of unemployment have consistently remained about twice that of the white rates across time, regardless of education.

The household income gap remains at about 60 cents for every dollar. African Americans are only slightly less likely today to live in poverty than they were in 1976.

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The report found the black unemployment rate has consistently remained about twice the rate of whites at every level of education. Compared to 40 years ago, according to the report, the income gap has remained basically unchanged — now at 60% — and the homeownership rate gap has actually grown six percentage points, now at 59%.

In another startling statistic, the foreclosure crisis, according to the report, has left black homeownership rates at approximately the same point they were in 1976, while the white homeownership rates are now five percentage points higher.

"While aggregate improvements can be noted across the board for blacks and whites, unfortunately the findings tell a clear story that significant disparities remain and have not been resolved by any gains, particularly in income and employment," according to the report.

The report comes as Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont focus on economic inequality and institutional racism.

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On the campaign trail, Clinton and Sanders have underscored high rates of black unemployment, massive poverty in America, and wealth inequality. Clinton and Sanders have drawn sharp contrasts to Donald Trump, the billionaire Republican presumptive nominee for president.

Meanwhile, the study also asks questions about racial progress in America under President Barack Obama's two-term stewardship.

While Morial did say there has been some progress with respect to African Americans receiving adequate health care, he questioned whether there has been substantial advancements between blacks and whites since President Barack Obama took office.

"As President Obama wraps up his final months as the nation’s first African-American commander in chief, we begin to assess the progress Black America has made under his administration," he said. "How well has the nation recovered from the worst economic crisis it has seen in generations? How much closer are we to the very important goal of universal healthcare coverage has the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – gotten us?"

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"The 2016 National Urban League Equality Index tells an all too familiar story of persistent racial disparities in American life," Morial wrote in the report, "making clear that the historic Obama presidency has not been a panacea for America’s long-standing race problem. "

The study also calls for a "bold and strategic investment" in America’s urban communities that requires $1 trillion over the next 5 years.

Some of the recommendations include investments in universal early childhood education; a federal living wage of $15 per hour; a financing plan focusing on minority-and-women-owned businesses; expansion of summer youth employment programs; expanded homeownership strategies; and doubling the Pell Grant program to make college more affordable.

"Vernon Jordan realized in 1976 that it was incumbent upon the National Urban League to confront the problems that Washington refused to acknowledge," Morial wrote. "Forty years later, we continue on that path to progress – with a clear purpose and an even clearer plan."

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