All Articles Tagged "black middle class"
The U.S. Postal Service has eliminated 168,000 jobs since 2006, and more cuts are expected. This could be significant to the African-American middle class. Why? A higher percentage of black workers have USPS jobs. According to a 2012 U.S. Department of Labor report, nearly one in five African-American workers have government jobs such as mail clerks, firefighters and teachers.
“African Americans make up about 20 percent of U.S. Postal Service workers – and are the majority in some urban centers, representing 75 percent to 80 percent of the 5,000 letter carriers in the Chicago area, according to Mack Julion, president of the Chicago branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers,” reports The Huffington Post.
The drastic cuts at the USPS, the country’s second-largest civilian employer after Wal-Mart with some 536,000 career workers, will directly affect its African-American workers. And as the black unemployment rate remains high — 14 percent, roughly double that of whites — it will be harder for African Americans to continue a middle-class lifestyle.
Historically, the postal service had less racial tension, which attracted many African Americans. According to Philip F. Rubio, author of There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice and Equality, in 1865, the U.S. Post Office opened to black workers. “It became a magnet for African Americans who gravitated to the one place where they could take the test and they knew once they got in and became career employees, they were set,” Rubio told the news site. And by World War I, African Americans made up 10 percent of the postal service’s work force.
A USPS position was considered — and still is — a “good job.” The national average annual salary of career employees who work directly with mail, such as letter carriers, is $53,000 to $55,000, reports HuffPo.
The Internet has caused staggering losses — $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012 alone — for the postal service as more people are using electronic mail. “[T]he postal service is losing $25 million a day, by some estimates, and could run out of money by October,” writes HuffPo.
As we’ve reported here a couple of times in the past few weeks, the U.S employment situation is improving with each report. The numbers for black Americans, who have suffered acutely during this Great Recession, has also seen improvement.
The percentage of African Americans with a job has gone from 52.7 percent to 53 percent with the unemployment rate falling to 13.4 percent. Overall, The Root reports, black employment has risen .5 percent over the past year.
However, a shadow cast on all this positive news is that African-American women have made all of the most recent jobs gains.
“Among adults ages 20 and over, all of the gains for African Americans were among women. Although the share of black adult women overall employed rose from 55.1 percent to 55.3 percent, the share of black adult men employed fell from 57.7 percent to 57.5 percent,” the site says.
The story goes on to say that gains are being made across the private sector while the public sector suffers (600,000 jobs have been lost in this area), and for those with a college degree while those with only a high school diploma still struggle.
But, also on a positive note, the percentage of people who quit their job rather than being laid off grew to 7.9 percent and wages are growing, though modestly.
Now that we’re moving into a period where jobs are being created, the middle class needs security and we need to bring everyone at that level and below up a notch.
“The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project recently released a report projecting that 68 percent of African-Americans reared in the middle of the wealth ladder will not do as well as the previous generation,” Business Insider reports. The story continues with the National Urban League’s report showing that gains for the black middle class over the past 30 years have been erased by this recession.
“That nest egg is central to the discussion about the middle class. It’s often key to how well a family rebounds after a financial catastrophe, or whether a kid makes it to college,” the article says. That’s where those wealth numbers become important. And they’re scary. Black wealth fell by half between 2005 and 2009 to just $5,677 per average household. For whites, that figure fell just 16 percent… to $113,149. The problem is two-fold: blacks in the middle class have usually been lower middle class, and they got there through the public sector jobs that have been steadily disappearing during this economic downturn. The economy has pushed many black homeowners into a fragile situation with many losing their homes all together.
“Home values and equity are a huge deal because homes accounts for about 60 percent of black wealth,” BI says.
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A City College of New York assistant professor of political science, Daniel DiSalvo, has written a column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discussing what the headline calls “The Great Reverse Migration” of blacks away from the northern parts of the US.
Citing the astounding figures found throughout The Warmth of Other Suns, the fantastic book by Isabel Wilkerson about the first Great Migration of blacks to the North to escape Jim Crow, DiSalvo notes the millions who made the trip to places like New York and Chicago during the 1900s. About six million to be exact.
But now there are new stats showing that a high number of blacks are making the reverse trip to places like Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Florida. More specifically, they’re making the move from big cities to other cities like Dallas and Atlanta (though moves to the suburbs have been plentiful as well). Citing figures from the New York Times, the column says that by the end of the 2000s, the black population in the South had grown 75 percent. New York, Illinois and Michigan are the states seeing the biggest exodus.
“Many of the migrants are ‘buppies’ — young, college-educated, upwardly mobile black professionals — and older retirees,” the column says. In other words, blacks who are moving up the ladder are seeking greener pastures (literally) by also moving to places where they can have bigger homes, a backyard, and a solidly middle class way of life. A lot of older retirees are also laying down fresh roots across the South.
DiSalvo pinpoints three reasons for this movement: job prospects, housing prices and the state of public education. The author, who is also a senior fellow at Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership, a conservative-leaning organization, goes on to talk about the possible political repercussions. Among them, the political impact of black immigrants, such as people from Africa and the Caribbean; and the difficulty in creating “predominantly black districts” as the black population spreads out. He posits that blacks may “try their political fortunes” outside of the Democratic party.
“New political attitudes among blacks also have trouble finding expression when black candidates are concentrated into one party,” the column says, suggesting that blacks may turn to the GOP or become independents.
While there’s no doubt that the economic and political landscape is changing for the black community, DiSalvo seems to take his argument a little too far. Blacks in this country continue to make great strides. More blacks are going to college, becoming entrepreneurs and joining the ranks of the middle class.
However, the economic recession has taken a toll. Black unemployment remains high. Women and minority business owners have trouble getting funding to start their businesses. Pew research shows that economic mobility has “stalled.” Some argue that many of the gains made by the black middle class were lost when the housing market went bust. So some of the same economic concerns linger, and progress has created a crop of new ones.
And, at least right now, Mitt Romney and the GOP aren’t making the case that he and his party represent all people. Romney is still reeling from the secret footage containing his talk about the 47 percent. Now there’s new ( or rather, old and played out) video of the President that’s again raising issues with race and race-baiting. And many are still thinking about the scant minority presence at the GOP convention. “…Obama is also president for Americans they felt were not reflected at last week’s largely white Republican National Convention, including advocates for women’s reproductive rights, Latinos fighting for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, and gay rights activists,” reported NPR around the time of the Democratic convention last month.
Back in the day, the road to security was through a good government job. But as the government scales back on employment, especially in state and local sectors, it seems that road is not so sure anymore. Capital Public Radio reports that African Americans, which are 30 percent more likely than nonblacks to work in the public sector, will disproportionately feel the negative effects of these cutbacks.
“Most government jobs have good pay and benefits and are probably what we would consider a good foundation for middle-class incomes,” Roderick Harrison, a Howard University research scientist said to Capital Public Radio. “So any loss of government jobs is going to disproportionately hit the middle class…The black population, which is more dependent on government for middle-class job opportunities, is going to be more heavily hit.”
Government jobs have been steadily decreasing since the recession in December 2007 as officials have been forced to make tough decisions to cut budgets and deal with the increasingly high cost of unemployment benefits. Over the last three years, government has gotten rid of 2.6 percent of its jobs, which is according to nonprofit Roosevelt Institute, the largest reduction in its history. Last year 265,000 government employees were cut. In fact, government job loss has been one of the worst hindrances to the economic recovery. Even the 130,000 jobs added in the private sector last April was undercut by the 15,000 jobs cut in government.
“The three pillars of middle-class African-American life were the public sector, good manufacturing jobs, and black entrepreneurs that served the black community during segregation,” Berkeley Center economist Steven Pitts said to Capital Public Radio. “With the end of segregation, you put pressure on the black entrepreneurs, and then there was the decline in manufacturing. Now we see the erosion of the third pillar — the public sector.”
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For years Georgia has seen a multitude of black success. Centering in Atlanta, African Americans have succeeded in business from Tyler Perry’s studios to the Black Beauty Institute that strives to encourage more African Americans to take ownership of black beauty supply stores. Although the black community may have seen a dip in its economic stronghold during the recession, a new report shows that African Americans are bouncing back.
According to Public Broadcasting Atlanta, Georgia is the fifth largest African American Consumer Market in the US. A new report from the University of Georgia observes that the numbers have seen a growth. UGA’s director of economic forecasting, Jeff Humphreys says that black buying power has increased from $66 billion in 2010, to $73 billion a year. Black Georgian consumers spend 22 cents of every dollar compared to 8.5 cents nationwide.
He attributes the increase to several factors, including population growth, higher education and entrepreneurship among African Americans living in Georgia.
“So this is a very compelling market for companies targeting African-American consumers, whether with existing products, product development or advertising,” Humphreys said to Public Broadcasting Atlanta.
Now that African Americans in Georgia have the buying power, let’s hope they’re spending the money in the right way with black businesses so that the money stays in the community.