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Monday, September 9, 2013

Disparity By The Numbers (Part 1)

Click to watch video:
Racial Discrimination in Everyday Life
In a 'colorblind' world, it is often tempting to believe we live in a 'post-racial' society. We want to believe that race doesn't matter anymore when it comes to shaping someone's chances at succeeding in life.

So what do the data say about having reached racial equality?
Let's take a look at some of the numbers:

Income and Employment 
Unemployment rates for Black folk have been double that of white Americans for decades. The statistics that Martin Luther King Jr. quoted during his marches are almost exactly the same today. Black men working full time earn 72% of what white men make at the same job (the disparity grows for black women). The Latino unemployment rate has increased two times faster than whites’ since 2000. People of color are less likely to be interviewed, hired, and promoted than white workers with comparable resumes.

Black children are three times more likely to live in poverty than white children. American Indian and Latino families are more likely to live in poverty. And there hasn't been much improvement over the years. While Latino households made about 76% as much as white households in 1980, it had further decreased to 72% by 2005. The median income for white households was $50,622 in that year,  but was $30,939 for Black households, and $36,278 for Latino households.

Income by Race:
Click to enlarge
The poverty rate was reported at 8.3% for white Americans, but was 24.9% for Black folk, 21.8% for Latinos and 11.1% for Asian Americans. Though it is popular to state that the median family income for Asian Americans is the highest of any race, this statistic is carefully constructed to obscure the true disparity. Per capita, Asian Americans make 20% less than White Americans, and the statistic further crumbles when broken down by nationality.

Indeed,  "Asian Americans top whites in family income only because Asian families have on average more people working per household." Change “family income” to “personal income, and you get a very different story. Given that Asian American poverty is rarely represented on TV and in the news, the pressing needs of many in the community remain invisible and unassisted (See post: Model Minority).

Black and Latino students are more likely to attend high-poverty schools than white students. Latino, Black and American Indian students also have the highest dropout rates. Economic disparity means more students of color must maintain jobs while attending school in order to contribute to family income. And the pervasive school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately shuttles students of color into the judicial system. Students of color are also less likely to be offered gifted programs, AP courses, or college counseling

Click to Enlarge
Here again, the 'model minority' myth works against Asian American students. An individual's misfortune is more likely to be seen as an anomaly of personal failing than as a consequence of a broken system. This perception leads to under-funding of assistance programs/scholarships for a large chunk of Asian Americans that do not fit the stereotype. Teachers are less likely to offer special help, or even to check in on their Asian American student, leaving them to fend for themselves. But Asian Americans, like Black students, have to stay in school longer to get paid the same as a white person.

How should Christians respond to these statistics? 
What can the Church do to combat systemic racial disadvantage?

Continue to part two to look at housing, incarceration, and health disparities...


  1. This week's post is pretty statistics heavy. I'd love to hear your personal experiences to give life to the numbers.

  2. This speaks to my life with a loud roar... I was unemployed for a year and ended up having to take a job that paid about 65% less than what I was making. I was told I was over qualified more times than I can imagine. One guy told me he could not hire me because I was working on a PhD. and it appeared that all I wanted to do was be a college professor.

  3. smh...I'm so sorry Brian. How frustrating! That is such a double bind.

  4. Thanks for the link, Brian. It would be interesting to see comparative statistics within subgroups such as similar neighborhoods, similar schools, similar family situations, etc.

    From a church or Christian perspective, that kind of information might prove more useful. We know there is a disparity, but what is the root cause or the solution? If we could see similar outcomes for those in two parent households, then Christians should focus on outreach that encourages the family unit that God designed. If we see similar outcomes for children in after school programs, Christians can provide access to those types of programs.

  5. Great thoughts, Hoosier!
    Many of the studies mentioned above control for differences in class, education, location etc. But there are definitely interacting effects when it comes to racial disparity.
    Having informed and educated Christians engaged in these issues is essential!
    Thanks for your comments.


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