Salon.com has published a story called “Can the Black Middle Class Survive?” that doesn’t so much answer the question as paint a scary picture for why we should be concerned enough to ask it in the first place.
The author, Steven Gray, who previously worked for TIME magazine, points out that in 1999, “for the first time, more than half of black Americans were considered ‘middle class.’” According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate for African Americans had fallen to an all-time low of 22.5 percent. But just a few years later, the housing crisis was taking shape, with even well-off African Americans falling prey to subprime mortgages, which has caused many to lose their homes or put their homeownership in jeopardy.
“If current trends persist, soon, barely 40 percent of African-Americans will be considered ‘middle class,’ and by 2042, the average black family will earn only 61 cents for every dollar earned by whites,” he writes.
He takes a bit of a tangential turn into his personal story of working and then not working for TIME to make the point that one million black workers lost their jobs across industries including construction, healthcare and manufacturing. Moreover, African Americans represent a small percentage of workers in some industries or are the newcomers in others, making it hard to break through in certain areas. This lessens already tight employment opportunities.
All of this comes to his point that blacks had a growing but weak hold on the middle class and both economic and cultural forces are sweeping that away. If you’ve read the article, what do you think of Gray’s argument?