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 continued disproportionate impact the recession is having on communities of color.





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


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

In fact, you could say that for African-Americans the recession is over. It occurred from 2000 to 2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomes declined by 2.9 percent. During those seven years, one-third of black children lived in poverty, and black unemployment -- even among college graduates -- consistently ran at about twice the level of white unemployment.


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

The Center for Social Inclusion analyzed the latest Census Bureau findings and found that people of color and especially African-Americans, are at greatest risk of being left out of economic recovery efforts. According to CSI, "rising poverty and unemployment, and decreasing access to health care are undermining recovery in communities of color, slowing the engine of America's struggling economy."


Some further numbers from the CSI report:

  • Unemployment is 26.5% for young Black men, 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 African Americans compared to 23.2% for Latinos,
  • 11.6% for Asians, and 11.0% for Whites.
  • The percent of uninsured is 30.7% among Latinos, 18.9% among African Americans, 17.1% among Asians, and 10.8% among Whites.

Advocates are calling on policies that better target communities of color being left behind by other recovery efforts. As CSI explains:

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


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act must do a better job recording and reporting who are getting jobs funded by the Stimulus. Projects should be targeted in hardest-hit areas, and local, state, and federal agencies must take race into account when deciding which projects to fund.