American Renaissance

New Report: The State of the Dream

Black-White Gaps Still Wide — Some Even Widening — Since Dr. King’s Death

Press Release from United for a Fair Economy
For immediate release
Contact: Betsy Leondar-Wright, (617) 423-2148 x13

Racial inequities in unemployment, family income, imprisonment, average wealth and infant mortality are actually worse than when Dr. King was killed, according to United for a Fair Economy’s new report, “The State of the Dream: Enduring Disparities in Black and White,” by Dedrick Muhammad, Attieno Davis, Meizhu Lui and Betsy Leondar-Wright. The report contrasts the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the reality of the continued racial divide.

Progress has been made in narrowing the divide in per capita income, poverty, homeownership, education, life expectancy and median wealth, but so slowly that the gaps would take decades or even centuries to close at the current rate.

“As Americans celebrate the King Holiday and listen to President Bush’s State of the Union address, we must hold in mind the failure of the most powerful nation in the world to create opportunity for all its people,” said Dedrick Muhammad. “No longer do we hear about a War on Poverty or a Great Society. It has been replaced by compassionate conservatism, which has been very conservative in its compassion.”

  • The typical Black family had 60% as much income as a white family in 1968, but only 58% as much in 2002.
  • One in nine African Americans cannot find a job. Black unemployment is more than twice the white rate - a wider gap than in 1972.
  • Black infants are almost two-and-a-half-times as likely as white infants to die before age one - a greater gap than in 1970.
  • White households had an average net worth of $468,200 in 2001, more than six times the $75,700 of Black households. In 1989 (the oldest comparable data available), average white wealth was five-and-a-half times Black wealth.

“The phrase ‘snail’s pace’ doesn’t describe the slow progress in some black-white gaps, because snails travel faster than that,” said Meizhu Lui.

  • At the slow rate that the Black-white poverty gap has been narrowing since 1968, it would take 150 years, until 2152, to close.
  • For every dollar of white per-capita income, African Americans had 55 cents in 1968 - and only 57 cents in 2001. At this pace, it would take Blacks 581 years to get the remaining 43 cents.

“African Americans have endured unbearable disparities for too long,” said Attieno Davis. “581 years is too long to wait for our missing 43 cents on the dollar.”

  • While white homeownership has jumped from 65% to 75% since 1970, Black homeownership has only risen from 42% to 48%. At this rate, it would take 1,664 years to close the homeownership gap - about 55 generations.
  • If current rates of incarceration continue, one out of three African American males born today will be imprisoned at some point during their lifetimes.
  • At the current pace, Blacks and whites will reach high school graduation parity in 2013, six decades after the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. And college graduation parity wouldn’t be reached until 2075, more than 200 years after the end of slavery.

“Dr. King worked to instill in us all a sense of moral urgency about the racial disparities in the United States,” said Betsy Leondar-Wright. “We can honor his memory by shaking off our complacency and committing ourselves to racial justice.”

Dedrick Muhammad is the Racial Wealth Divide Coordinator at United for a Fair Economy. Attieno Davis coordinates UFE’s Racial Wealth Divide education work. Meizhu Lui is UFE’s Executive Director, and Betsy Leondar-Wright is UFE’s Communications Director.

United for a Fair Economy is an independent national non-profit that raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart.