By the Numbers: Census Paints a Picture of the Black Community

The numbers highlight both progress and challenges.

Posted: 02/01/2012 05:23 PM EST

A year before the housing bubble burst and the economy nearly flat-lined, the National Urban League declared a housing state of emergency in America. In response, NUL president Marc Morial recalled during an event his organization hosted with the Census Bureau Monday, the media and others compared the organization to the fairy tale character, Chicken Little, whose claims that the sky was falling down also were met with disbelief. As it turns out, however, the group was right. It was able to predict the future based on information compiled in a Census Bureau report.

 

Many people’s eyes glaze over at the mere thought of such statistics, Morial observed, but that information can provide a picture of where the nation is going and its future challenges.

 

The Urban League and the Census Bureau hosted a forum on Wednesday to crunch Black population statistics in the 2010 census. In addition to experiencing 15.4 percent growth between 2000 and 2010, the Black population is projected to grow from 42 million in 2010 to 65.7 million in 2050. The annual median income in Black households was $32,068, a decline of 3.2 percent from 2009, and 27.4 percent were living in poverty.

 

The 2010 census also reinforced the much-discussed migration of Blacks to the South in search of greater opportunities. Fifty-six percent of Blacks now live in the South. Julianne Malveaux, an economist and president of Bennett College for Women, said that cities are becoming more multi-racial, which can have an impact on African-Americans’ political power. Washington, D.C., for example, has seen its Black population drop to 52 percent of the city’s total.

 

“There’s speculation about how long Black political power will remain concentrated in Washington, D.C.,” she said, adding that there is some fear that “where you may have population majorities, you still have political and cultural resistance to African-American population-related issues.”

 

Malveaux also expressed concern about what happens to those left behind when people leave, because “cities have a tendency to be blacker, browner, older, younger and more female than the rest of the population.”

 

They’re also poorer. Using D.C. in another example, Malveaux questioned whether those living in the city’s more affluent wards will be as concerned about service and budget cuts or providing opportunities, because poverty is not as much of an issue.

 

Roderick Harrison, a research scientist at Howard University and Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies fellow, said that as a result of migration, the direction of politics will have to center more around the formation of multicultural voting blocs around common issues.

 

“Ninety percent of the Black and Hispanic agenda overlap. So there’s no reason as ... many of these areas Hispanic populations grow that you shouldn’t be able to form coalitions that would push as effectively for some of the education, housing, health and employment issues that a Black population alone has been fighting for for decades,” he said.

 

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