Will You Be Better Off In Four More Years?

Now that President Clinton has won a second term, B.E.'s economists assess whether African Americans will cross the bridge to a more prosperous 21st century or get taken for a ride

the inner cities: Between 1989 and 1993, median household income declined by an estimated 12%, from $30,260 to $26,626; in suburban areas, it remained constant at about $41,000. “So the areas where African Americans are most concentrated are those where we continue to see a decline in real income,” says Thomas Boston. In 1993, almost 43% of the poor lived in central cities, and poverty in these areas continues to increase, he adds.

“We have to get out of the box and think more creatively about how we want to operate our economy–where all American citizens have a chance to participate. We don’t have that type of system now, and we fault individuals when they’re not given an opportunity to thrive in the system,” says David Swinton.

On the flip side, the news could have been equally positive, depending on your income level and job status. Many of the new jobs created over the last four years have gone to people in the middle-income brackets, creating many new full-time workers, Andrew Brimmer says.

A LEERY AGING POPULATION
Carrie Baker’s concerns are varied, but closest to home is the fate of Social Security, which she’ll begin collecting in a few years. And she’s not alone: many recent retirees, and even aging baby boomers, fear that Social Security will be eliminated.

“With the cost of living always going up,” she reflects, “it would hurt us a great deal if that’s suddenly taken away. Older people can’t live like animals. We should be able to live with dignity.”

Baker, who worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. in New York City for 25 years, has held numerous jobs, from office cleaner to security person. Now she and her husband, Maurice, live largely on the income supplied by their-pensions and Social Security.

Baker should find some relief from Clinton’s long-standing position that Social Security is off the table when it comes to budget cuts or reductions.

Adds Marcus Alexis: “If you wanted to do something for individuals on Social Security, and wanted it to be race neutral, then leave the limits in and reduce the rates. That would strike all incomes that are making contributions, and you’d get a better bang for lower-income minority contributors rather than simply lowering the ceiling.”

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Rechelle Fears, a few weeks away from delivering her second child, was anxious-not about the delivery, but about what happens afterwards.

“What if we wanted to have more children. Would we be able to afford it then? Would we be able to move into a larger place or a home with the economy the way it is? How can you really be sure of anything when you see people who are high-flying executives one day and destitute the next?”

Fears, a 27-year-old social worker, is in a better financial position to face the future than some. Along with her husband, David, a former stockbroker who now works as a small business consultant, the Harlem couple bring in over $50,000. So the idea of purchasing a home and living out the American

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