The National Urban League focuses on the digital revolution and the inclusion of African Americans in the digital economy in its 42nd edition of its annual State of Black America. With the use of the Digital Inclusion Index, and a nod to 21st-century realities, the index looks at digital skills and occupations, digital access, and digital policy.
Digital Inclusion Index:
The Urban League’s Equality Index stated that 89.3% of African American households have a computer, a 2.5% increase over 2017; and 77.6% of black households have an internet connection. While computers, smartphones, and tablets have become a routine part of everyday life, the concept of digital inclusion the report notes, goes beyond whether every home has a computer and internet access. “Rather, the more relevant question is: ‘Are the new job, business and educational opportunities created by increased digitization of our world being equally shared?’”
Data: The report found that there is still an overwhelming difference between the percentage of blacks and whites who hold STEM degrees and certificates or are employed in the tech industry. Only 8.2% of all degrees conferred to blacks in 2015–2016 were in STEM fields and just 5.7% of total black employment in 2017 was in the tech industry. By contrast, 12.8% of degrees and certificates conferred to whites were in STEM, and 8.5% of white workers were employed in the tech industry.
Areas Below Average Digital Equality:
- Research and Development: It is a well-known fact that HBCUs receive fewer research and development dollars per student and spend less on R&D per student compared to other universities. Because of school size, one might understand why total R&D dollars are lower at HBCUs than non-HBCUs but the gap in per student spending found by the NUL were troubling. The average HBCU receives just 10.2% of the federal per student R&D funds that go to non-HBCUs and spends just 7.9% of what the average non-HBCU spends on R&D per student.
Areas Above Average Digital Equality:
- Computer and Data Science Degrees: While African Americans with PhDs in science and engineering degrees don’t have the same outcomes as their white counterparts, the report found that they are actually closer to parity than the average worker. And although African Americans are less likely than whites to receive STEM degrees in general, one particular kind of STEM degree is actually more common among African Americans than whites. In 2015–2016, 2.8% of African Americans and 2.6% of whites earned degrees in computer and data science.
The median salary for full-time employed African Americans with a doctoral science and computer/information science occupation is 92.8% that of whites. They are also nearly as likely to be employed as associate professors—2.6% of blacks and 2.8% of whites. On the full and assistant professorship levels, however, gaps exist, the report found. The report found that 24.6 % of African American doctoral scientists and engineers receive federal support, compared to 28.8% of whites.