The University Record, October 28, 1998

Black Americans in the 21st century: Report analyzes how they’re faring in an increasingly diverse nation

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

At the beginning of World War II, about 10 percent of the Black population was classified as middle class. That number is almost 50 percent today.

• High school graduation rates for whites and Blacks will be equal in 2010.

• In 1995, Black median family income was about 60 percent of white median family income, about the same as it was in the 1960s.

• Despite affirmative action, the Black-white gap in college attendance has increased steadily among men since the 1970s and remained the same among women.

These are some examples of the uneven progress of African Americans identified in a new report on race in America, sponsored by the National Policy Association (NPA), a private, non-profit group based in Washington, D.C., and co-authored by psychologist James S. Jackson, director of the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research, and Nicholas A. Jones, a research fellow at the Institute.

Analyzing multiple sources of data, some recently published and others forthcoming, the report examines the health, wealth and educational status of Black Americans along with their social, family and community conditions.

Even though much has improved for Black Americans, the report also makes it clear that many challenges remain if the nation is to achieve the promise of equal opportunity.

According to Jackson, the report shows that the Black middle class has grown and solidified, and that America’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity is improving some racial attitudes. But significant obstacles to Black advancement remain. Among these are a large disparity in infant mortality rates between whites and Blacks. In 1995 white infant mortality was 6.3 per 1,000 births with Black infant mortality more than double, at 15.1 per 1,000 births.

Falling marriage rates for Blacks are cited as another continuing problem. A growing percentage of Black children live in families headed by single parents, who often have low incomes and high levels of stress. By the year 2010, the report projects, Black marriage rates will drop to 32 percent, compared with 57 percent for white Americans.

Malcolm Lovell, NPA president, and Milton Morris, president of Creative Futures International, the study’s co-directors, point out that “this mixed record challenges us for the future. As we move toward the new century, there are serious concerns about the continued effectiveness of some of the strategies we have relied on in the past and about the measures that will sustain the drive forward in the future.”

In addition to analyzing Black problems and progress, the report emphasizes that the increasing diversity of American society demands that new politics and policies be formulated that are sensitive to America’s changing racial mix.

To maximize the chances that racial inequalities do not continue, the report recommends that Blacks form coalitions with other racial and ethnic groups, including Asians and Hispanics.

The report is a preview of an extensive NPA/U-M study conducted by 16 leading scholars from around the country on the changing economic and social status of African Americans. Its purpose is to stimulate further discussion on the state of race relations today as well as the prospects for future harmony as America continues to diversify in the next century.

For a copy of the report, “New Directions in Thinking About Race in America: African Americans in a Diversifying Nation,” contact Marilyn Zuckerman at the National Policy Association, (202) 884-7626, 1424 16th Street, N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20036.

 


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