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Blacks should act to improve grim economic conditions: Mitchell

Updated: May 8, 2014 9:41AM



There is no shortage of data when it comes to African-Americans.

But two national studies released last week suggest African Americans may be too reactionary on some issues, and too complacent on others.

For instance, a national survey of 1,005 black households by Ebony Magazine, in partnership with W. K. Kellogg Foundation, found that 88 percent of those polled were satisfied with their lives, while 73 percent or nearly three of four respondents said they were concerned about income inequality.

The survey was conducted by telephone in February, 2014 by Lester & Associates and has a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

“They are satisfied to have a roof and meal and are getting by. But there’s a lot of economic discontent, high unemployment and a great deal of concern over wages,” noted Ronald Lester, who heads up the market research firm.

When asked what issues concerned them the most, 20 percent said “improving the economy and creating jobs” and 30 percent said “lack of good paying jobs.” Eighty-two percent of respondents said they are “concerned that whites still make more than blacks for doing the same job;” 14 percent said they face discrimination “very often,” while 44 percent said they “sometimes face” discrimination.

Gail Christopher, who is African American and vice president for program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said the responses reflect recognition that until something is done about the economic challenges, there won’t be “equality.”

“We continue to make progress. I also think we are aware that we could be better in some ways,” she said.

“Our expectations have been managed in a way. That is what disturbs me. I think we have to have more of a sense of urgency. We have learned to go along to get along. We have learned to cope.”

According to the poll, one-third of respondents are concerned that their children are not getting a quality education.

However, the views about public education might be somewhat distorted.

The National Urban League released its 38th Edition of the State of Black America “equality index” report last week, and education attainment is one of two areas that remained the same as last year’s.

Other key findings of that report include: Black median household income is about 60 percent of whites — $33,764 verse $56,565; the black-white unemployment equality index is 50 percent or double white unemployment; blacks have a median wealth of $6,314 verse whites who have $110,500.

This year, 26 metro areas, including Chicago with Joliet and Naperville areas, were assigned index values in the areas of economics, health, education, and social justice equality.

“[Chicago’s] numbers are not good. It was kind of depressing,” said Andrea Zopp, president and CEO, of the Chicago Urban League. “We tend to be toward the bottom half on most metrics. It’s a wake-up call that we still have a lot of work to do.

“What is most disconcerting is that almost 44 percent of the black population under the age of 18 is living below the poverty line. We know poverty creates a whole host of barriers.”

There was, however, a surprising bright light in the report.

When it comes to the attainment of at least a high school diploma, blacks are at 85 percent and Hispanics are 6l percent, compared to 94 percent for whites. That resulted in 91 percent black-white index.

“We are in the ball park and that is increasing for a whole lot of reasons,” said Zopp, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education.

“Improving schools and improving outcomes are going to pay dividends down the road.”

Overall, these findings should let black people know now is not the time to feel satisfied.

Email: marym@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST



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