African American disadvantage in 2013

The recent Trayvon Martin verdict (George Zimmerman found not guilty) has stimulated new discussion about African-American (black) disadvantage in the USA.

Here’s what President Barack Obama said:

In the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here. I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.  The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Time Magazine – which specialises in summarising complex phenomena in coherent and reasonably objective ways – included a set of statistics in their most recent issue:

Issue Blacks Whites
Median household income $33,000/year $55,000/year
Male unemployment 15% 7%
Religion important to their lives 79% 56%
Believes discrimination exists in USA today 56% 16%
Percentage 18-24 enrolled in college 36% 45%
Percentage in US population 13%  
Percentage  in US prison population 37% (three times pop rate)  

(The Time statistics were sourced from the National Urban League, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, Social Problems journal and Sentencing Project.)

And here are some more statistics from Time:

–          Blacks make up 13% of the US population, but 37% of those in prison – thus incarcerated at three times their rate of population.

–          Blacks constitute 13% of the regular drug users (exactly their rate of the population), but are 38% of those arrested for drug offenses (again, almost three times the rate of others – surely a connection).

–          Wages grow at a 21% “slower rate for black former inmates, compared with white former inmates”.

–          “Eleven US states deny the right to vote to more than 10% of their black populations because of felony convictions”.  And yet, blacks voted in the 2012 Presidential election at a GREATER rate than whites did, for the first time in history, continuing a trend that has been apparent since 2000 – see the US Census Report from May 2013 and the Pew Social Trends report.


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