Pundits are working themselves into a dither about whether the U.S. is or isn't officially "in a recession." But for at least one segment of the country, the question is settled: African-Americans are deep in recession, and have been for a while.

In fact, black America is in what should be called a permanent recession.

In January, economist Algernon Austin at the Economic Policy Institute pointed out that even in good times, huge numbers of African-Americans are being left behind:

In the best of times, many African American communities are forced to tolerate levels of unemployment unseen in most white communities. The 2001 recession pushed the white annual unemployment rate up from a low of 3.5% in 2000 to a high of 5.2% in 2003. During the same period, the black unemployment rate shot up from 7.6% to 10.8%.

But the reality of inequality is too often left out of the equation. For example, USA Today ran a feature this week -- "Is your state in a recession?" -- which found that many parts of the country aren't in a recession, and are actually growing.

But is everyone benefiting? USA Today made no reference to another study released this week by the Urban League, which found inequality is stubbornly persistent:

Across a range of economic indicators including measures of employment, poverty, housing, income and wealth, blacks were much worse off than whites. If whites scored 100 percent on such measures, blacks scored just 56.8 percent, a figure unchanged from last year, the National Urban League said. [...]

Three times as many U.S. blacks as whites live below the poverty line, defined as an income of $20,000 for a family of four. The disparity between the races on unemployment narrowed slightly, but blacks were still twice as likely to be jobless.

Inequality is a South-wide story: as we recently reported, 11 of the 15 states with the highest poverty levels are in the South.