Commentary: The Viciousness of the New Poverty Numbers

Commentary: The Viciousness of the New Poverty Numbers

With more Black Americans falling deeper into poverty, the chances of them escaping that poverty also dwindle.

Published September 15, 2011

We’ve known for quite a while now that the recession has hit African-Americans disproportionately hard. Black unemployment is at a staggering 16.7 percent, while overall joblessness is just 9.1 percent. Blacks lost their homes in droves when the bubble burst, due in large part to the fact that they were subject to so much predatory lending. We’ve known things were bad for years now. But until this week, many of us hadn’t really grasped the extent to which things had gone wrong. Some sad new census data has changed all that.


According to the latest numbers, the average Black family’s household income fell 3 percent from 2009 to 2010, while white and Latino income fell only 1.7 and 2.3 percent, respectively. And with less income, poverty grows. While poverty rates for all ethnic groups were in the double digits in 2010, the African-American community was faring the worst, by far. More than one in four Black Americans is now living below the poverty line.


Poverty is terrible no matter what, but the kind of poverty that’s befallen the Black community as of late is especially troubling. While not huge, the economic gains made by African-Americans since the end of World War II and into the aughts have now been mostly decimated. And studies show that the longer a person goes without a job, the less likely they are to get a new job, which is the major problem of long-term joblessness. Beyond that, the longer people are unemployed and poor, the less likely they are to be able to take advantage of educational opportunities, and the more likely the are to fall into bad habits (i.e. drugs, alcohol, crime, etc.). In other words, if Blacks stay poor, the more likely they are to do the things that keep people poor.


Poverty is, as they say, "a vicious cycle." And with census numbers like these, it’s looking like it’s only going to get more vicious.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


(Photo: Stelios Varias / Reuters)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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