At this time of heightened racial tensions in the U.S. it is worthwhile to step back and take a broader view of the economic and social status of blacks in America. The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson has done just this in a recent column. As pointed out by Mr. Samuelson blacks have made much progress since the 1960s:
Poverty. Black poverty has dropped from 39.3% in 1967 to 26.2% in 2014, which was still double the white rate of 12.7%
Education. In 1950 only 13.7% of adult blacks had completed high school. By 2014 this had jumped to 86.7%. Over the same period the percentage of black adults with a four year college degree jumped from 2.2% to 22.8%. The corresponding percentage for whites in 2014 is 36%.
Upward Mobility. The black upper middle class (with incomes of $100,000 or more, inflation adjusted) has grown form 2.8% of households in 1967 to 13% in 2014. For the U.S. population as a whole it is now 31%.
Politics. In 1965, when the voting rights act was passed, there were five blacks in Congress, now there 46. Over the same time period, the number of black state legislators grew from 200 to 700.
Life Expectancy. The life expectancy gap between blacks and whites shrank from 8 years in 1970 to 5 years in 2010.
Conclusion. Most people understand that life for blacks in America is more difficult than it is for whites. On the whole American society is trying to help blacks lift themselves up to be able to enjoy a more prosperous and satisfying life. Much progress has been made in this respect in the last half-century but there is clearly still a long way to go in achieving full equality with white America. In my next post I will discuss one of the biggest barriers which remain in achieving equality between races.
A recent post, “Black Lives Matter,” discusses the perhaps surprising fact, that the black-white life expectancy gap has been decreasing in recent years. One aspect of this trend is that the death rate by homicide for blacks has been falling faster than it has been for whites. This may be about to change.
As recently reported by Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal, “The Nationwide Crime Wave Is Building,” since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a policeman in Ferguson MO in August 2014, cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity especially in big cities. This “Ferguson Effect” is likely responsible for rising violence in urban areas. For example:
Homicides increased 9% in the largest 63 cities in the first quarter of 2016.
These increases are on top of last year’s 17% rise in homicides in the 56 biggest U.S. cities, with heavily black cities showing murder spikes above 60%.
A study of gun violence in Baltimore showed an inverse correlation with proactive drug arrests. When Baltimore cops virtually stopped making drug arrests last year after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, shootings soared.
In Chicago, where pedestrian stops have fallen nearly 90%, homicides this year are up 60% compared with the same period last year.
As Ms. MacDonald notes, “If a powerful segment of society sends the message that proactive policing is bigoted, the cops will eventually do less of it. Ultimately, denial of the Ferguson effect is driven by a refusal to acknowledge the connection between proactive policing and public safety.” Conclusion: If “Black Lives Matter” is going to be more than a slogan, it has to be tied in with sensible policies to reduce violent crime. Demonizing law enforcement is exactly the wrong way to make things better.
I describe myself as a fiscal conservative with a social conscience. Most of the time I discuss issues like slow economic growth and excessive national debt. But occasionally, like today, I deal with related issues such as social inequality. Last fall I had a post entitled, “Why Racism Exists in America” in which I made the case that it’s not just our different skin color which divides blacks and whites, but also the large degree of social inequality between the two races, such as disparities in family structure and education levels as well as for income levels. Today I am pleased to refer to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, “Black Americans See Gains in Life Expectancy.” In fact, the black-white life expectancy gap has dropped from 7 years in 1990 to 3.4 years today. This is for a multitude of reasons:
The suicide rate for black men has declined from 1999 to 2014, the only racial group to show such a drop.
Births to black teenage mothers, who tend to have higher infant mortality rates, have dropped by 64% since 1995, faster than for whites.
The rate of deaths by homicide for blacks decreased by 40% from 1995 to 2013, compared with a 28% drop for whites.
The death rate from cancer fell by 29% for blacks over the same period, compared with 20% for whites.
Smoking has declined faster for blacks than whites and, in fact, blacks now have lower smoking rates than whites.
The decline in black deaths from AIDS accounts for a fifth of the narrowing of the mortality gap with whites from 1995 to 2013.
One way that black lives matter is that blacks are living longer! This offers hope that blacks can and will make progress on other fronts as well.