Mississippi has historic and continuing interests in the economic health of African-Americans because our state’s black population is the largest by percentage of all the states.

A report released last week by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee shows what it describes as “broadening and persistent inequities in employment, income and wealth among blacks.”

Mississippi’s stake in the report’s statistics is deep because we are the poorest state, and because equity in economic opportunity was late rising as an official priority of state government and Mississippi’s private-sector economy.

In sum, the report shows that African-Americans “face an unemployment rate double that of white workers and are nearly three times as likely as white Americans to live in poverty.”

The liabilities include “disproportionately high rates of poverty, unemployment and long-term unemployment as well as significantly lower incomes and slower wealth accumulation than white households.  When examining various measures to determine economic well-being, the report finds black Americans lag far behind the white population.”    

• For example, the median income of black households is $34,600 – nearly $24,000 less than the median income of white households ($58,300), and the white median income far outpaces Mississippi for all residents.

• The median net worth of white households is 13 times the level for black households.

• Black Americans are almost three times more likely to live in poverty than white Americans.

The report notes that the collapse in home values during the recession hit black households especially hard, since a high proportion of African-American wealth is comprised of homeowner equity, and while housing has rebounded, the recovery has not kept pace with the returns in the stock market, leading to a slower recovery in black household wealth than for whites.

It is disturbingly noteworthy that while educational attainment boosts employment and earnings prospects, college-educated African-American workers continue to face lower earnings and higher unemployment compared to white college-educated workers.

“Black workers with a bachelor’s degree earn over $12,000 less annually than white workers with a bachelor’s degree.  The unemployment rate for black workers with at least a bachelor’s degree is more than two percentage points higher than for white workers with the same education level,” the report found.

Specifically in Mississippi, significantly lower rates of educational attainment among blacks correlate to a disturbingly lower earnings level for African Americans, who comprise 37 percent of Mississippi’s population of 3 million, Institutions of Higher Learning scholarly research has shown.

Black women ages 25 and above as well as black men fall far short of the median for white Mississippians, which is as much as $16,000 lower than national median income figures in recent years.

Any reported economic good news in Mississippi in honesty must be weighed beside real gains among African-Americans, more than one-third of who we are.

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