Report: Economic Gains for Blacks Reversing

Boom of 1990s deflated in new millennium slump

country also needs job programs that are targeted toward poor blacks, Austin says.

Like Austin, Leigh agrees that the creation of government-supported work programs and policies to keep the unemployment rate low are a step in the right direction, but thinks “it’s going to take another couple of years for the after affects of the subprime market to wear off.”

Lower educational attainment among African Americans along with racial discrimination in the labor market and dysfunctional criminal justice policies are significant among the reasons the report states for preventing blacks from obtaining work, the study states.

In the 1990s black communities experienced a very strong decline in crime rate but could likely witness an increase if unemployment trends continue, Austin says.

The study also points out that African American ex-offenders face racial discrimination in addition to the employer biases against people with criminal records.

Approximately 42.1% of employers say they probably will not hire an ex-offender, while 6.6% say they probably wouldn’t hire a welfare recipient and 2.4% of employers say they probably wouldn’t hire a GED diploma holder, according to the study.

“If you don’t hire ex-offenders, what do you expect them to do? They’ll go back to a life of crime,” Leigh says.

Black people without a criminal record also face discrimination when looking for employment.

The study also shows that 17% of white ex-offenders in Milwaukee were more likely to get a call backs or job offers compared to 14% of blacks with no criminal records. In New York 13% of ex-offenders were likely to get a call back compared to 10% of blacks.

Homeownership is another category where African Americans are facing a decline.

In 2004, the homeownership rate for African Americans had increased to 49.1%, but dropped to 47.2% in 2007, the report states. This percentage is expected to continue declining throughout this year into 2009, given the number of foreclosures resulting from the current housing crisis.

“The impact of the housing crisis extends to African Americans who were not subprime borrowers. Homeowners who merely live in communities with a high rate of foreclosures will likely see the value of their homes decline,” according to the study.

The EPI report was released on Sept. 18 and is the first of a series of studies looking at this topic the EPI will do, Austin says. EPI plans to release similar reports about Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans.

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