Washington, D.C. — In recognition of Black History Month and in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) and the CBC released a new analysis of the impact of economic trends and barriers on Black Americans.
State and national data spanning the last 50 years highlight significant areas of economic progress among Black Americans. However, the data also make clear the persistence of structural and economic barriers facing Black workers and families that result in disparities across broad socioeconomic indicators and outcomes.
According to the analysis:
• Black child poverty rates have been cut by nearly half since the 1980s, and the share of Black Americans living below the poverty line reached the lowest level since federal data collection began in 1959.
• High school completion rates have risen significantly, and notably, the Black-white racial gap in high school graduation has nearly disappeared: In 2019, less than 6 percent of Black high school students dropped out of high school.
• The share of Black adults with college degrees has more than doubled since 1990.
However, despite this progress:
• White households have eight times the wealth of Black households, a result of historical disparities in asset ownership, unemployment, wages and intergenerational wealth transfers.
• Black households earn just 62 cents for every dollar earned by white households.
• Black Americans have consistently experienced unemployment rates that are nearly twice that of white Americans.
Additionally, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have disproportionately impacted Black workers and families, exacerbating existing gaps and threatening decades of progress.
Investments to improve job quality and raise wages, lower household costs and remove barriers to wealth-building are key to addressing racial inequality and advancing shared prosperity.
“We recognize the contributions of Black Americans and work to confront structural barriers throughout the year, and Black History Month presents a specific opportunity to shine a light on both the progress to address racial disparities and the systemic racism that remains entrenched in our society and in our economy,” said JEC Chairman Don Beyer.
“I am pleased to partner with Chairwoman Beatty and the Congressional Black Caucus on this important work, which makes clear the progress that has been made and the imperative that we in Congress do more to promote racial equality. In addition to directly harming Black workers and families, the effects of discrimination and inequities in income, wealth, health and education restrict the pathways to stronger and broad-based economic growth. We have before us a blueprint of the work we must do to build a more inclusive economy that values and honors the work of Black Americans.”
Added Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty, “As Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, a member of the Joint Economic Committee, and the first Chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, I applaud the efforts made to compile this critical report.
“The gaps identified throughout this report do not lend themselves to quick fixes. Hundreds of years of structural exclusion and systemic oppression cannot be simply erased. However, the status quo is not tenable for Black Americans or for the US economy as a whole.”
Chair Beatty continued: “This report aims to identify multiple entry points for action—and underscore the urgency of getting started. As a nation we must embrace the transformational powers of diversity and inclusion, and by harnessing the unique skills, tools, and talents of all people, at all levels in the private and public sectors, we can create a stronger economy and brighter futures for everyone.”
The JEC recently held hearings examining the racial wealth gap and the gender pay gap, with a particular focus on the “double gap” faced by Black women, who experience the effects of both the gender and racial wage gap.
The Congressional Black Caucus is committed to advancing Black families in the 21st Century through addressing the economic disparities that have plagued our communities for generations, creating opportunities that combat poverty, and closing the worsening racial wage and wealth gaps in America.
The CBC supports policies that strengthen protections for workers and expand Black entrepreneurship, business development, partnerships and reports such as this one. The CBC will continue to champion economic justice for Black families throughout the nation, until true equity is achieved.