In communities of color, the silent depression continues

Last week's Census Bureau report on poverty not only reveals the increasing rates of poverty during the first full year of recession -now at 13.2 percent - but it also shines a light on the continueddisproportionate impact the recession is having on communities of color.

As Facing South reported earlier thisyear, whereas white communities now find themselves in themiddle of a recession, people of color in the United States are already experiencing a "silent economic depression." As we reported, the current economiccrisis has waged a particularly severe attack on the Blackmiddle-class during 2008, the year more African Americans fell out ofthe middle class than any other time in our nation's history.

In a New York Times editorial last weekBarbara Ehrenreich examined the recession's "racial divide,"and found that African Americans are taking on the brunt of therecession with disproportionately high rates of unemployment andforeclosure:

In fact, you could say that forAfrican-Americans the recession is over. It occurred from 2000 to2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomesdeclined by 2.9 percent. During those seven years, one-third of blackchildren lived in poverty, and black unemployment -- even amongcollege graduates -- consistently ran at about twice the level ofwhite unemployment.

That was the black recession. What'shappening now is more like a depression.

The Center for Social Inclusionanalyzed the latest Census Bureau findings and found that people ofcolor and especially African-Americans, are at greatest risk of beingleft out of economic recovery efforts. According to CSI, "risingpoverty and unemployment, and decreasing access to health care areundermining recovery in communities of color, slowing the engine ofAmerica's struggling economy."

Some further numbers from the CSIreport:

  • Unemployment is 26.5% for young Blackmen, 14.2% for Young Latino men, and 11.7% for young White men.
  • Wages dropped 5.6% for Latinos, 4.4%for Asians, 2.8% for Blacks, and 2.6% for Whites.
  • Poverty has reached 24.6% among AfricanAmericans compared to 23.2% for Latinos,
  • 11.6% for Asians, and 11.0% for Whites.
  • The percent of uninsured is 30.7% amongLatinos, 18.9% among African Americans, 17.1% among Asians, and 10.8%among Whites.

Advocates are calling on policies thatbetter target communities of color being left behind by otherrecovery efforts. As CSI explains:

"It's time to act. Economicrecovery will exist in name only for too many of our neighbors if wedon't put in place the policies that are needed to reach everyone,"said Maya Wiley, executive director of the Center for SocialInclusion. "The newly poor are disproportionately women, children,Black, Latino and Asian. We can not let a massive recovery effortbypass the hardest hit."

The American Recovery and ReinvestmentAct must do a better job recording and reporting who are getting jobsfunded by the Stimulus. Projects should be targeted in hardest-hitareas, and local, state, and federal agencies must take race intoaccount when deciding which projects to fund.