In the midst of America’s continued struggle with the economy, the middle class is slowly dying. In February, it was reported that America now had 40 million people receiving food stamps. Beyond that, “middle-income jobs” were vanishing, falling a full 10 percent—to 42 percent of the economy—from 1980 to 2010. Nowadays, low-income jobs make up 41 percent of work, meaning people are going to keep getting poorer. As if this all wasn’t bad enough, Blacks, which made up an already small part of the middle class, are finding their presence in the middle class falling even more, and there is no sign that things are slowing.
According to research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), seven years ago the median net worth of white households was $134,280, while the median net worth for Blacks was just $13,450 for Black households. Five years later, in 2009, while the median net worth for all Americans had fallen, whites saw just a 24 percent drop. Blacks? Eighty-three percent.
Speaking to the Associated Press, EPI economist Algernon Austin said the drop in the Black middle class is due in large part to the current unemployment rate for college-educated Blacks and because Blacks are overrepresented in government jobs, which are being cut around the country because of massive budget deficits. “The recession is not over for Black folks,” said Austin.
What’s especially sad about this research isn’t that Blacks are becoming poorer. It’s that poverty is often a cyclical thing. And as more Blacks remain unemployed—the jobless rate for African-Americans was 16.2 percent in June—more of their children and grandchildren will remain in poverty, too, as poverty is what builds barriers toward good educations and home stability.
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