African-American Women In America Make Advancements In Education & Entrepreneurship, Struggle In Other Areas

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The latest study by the Center for American Progress (CAP) takes a comprehensive look at the state of black women in America, analyzing African-American women and health, education, entrepreneurship, economic security, and political leadership. We are 13 percent of the female population in the United States, but still have major disparities in various aspects of our lives. Strides are being made, such as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the spread of paid sick leave. Under the ACA, about 5.1 million African-American women with private health insurance are currently receiving expanded preventive service coverage and an estimated three million African-American women will now have access to affordable or subsidized health insurance. Here’s a snapshot of what CAP found:


One in four African-American women are uninsured.

  • More than any other group, African-American women suffer from hypertension: 46 percent of black women 20 years of age and older have hypertension; only 31 percent of white women and 29 percent of Hispanic women of the same age do.
  • White women may be more likely to have breast cancer, but African-American women are more likely to die from it. An average of five black women per day  (or 1,722 annually) succumb to breast cancer.
  • An incredible 65 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among women are African American.

Educational attainment

Although more African-American women pursue higher education, the numbers are still at a significantly lower level than that of white women.

  • In 2004,  the college graduation rate of African-American women was 24.1 percent and has not increased at the same rate as those of white women, Latinas, or Asian American women. Thirty percent of white women have a college degree.
  • Only two percent of African-American women are in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM;  women as a whole make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce.
  • “According to Census data about work-life earnings, white women make more than African American women among full-time, year-round workers, regardless of what degrees they have obtained,” reports the organization.


Businesses owned by African-American women continue to grow despite significant financial and social obstacles.

  • “African American-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the women-owned business market and are starting up at a rate six times higher than the national average,” reports CAP.
  • The number of companies started by black women increased nearly 258 percent from 1997 to 2013.
  • In 2013 the number of black women-owned businesses was estimated at 1.1 million. This comprised an incredible 42 percent of businesses owned by women of color and 49 percent of all African American-owned businesses.
  • Businesses owned by black women employed 272,000 workers and generated $44.9 billion in revenue in 2013.
  • But of the top 10 fastest-growing private companies owned by black entrepreneurs from 2009 to 2012, just 27 percent were owned by black women.

Economic security

This is a major issue for African-American women as they continue to have higher rates of unemployment than white women and continue to have lower amounts of weekly usual earnings and median wealth in comparison to their male counterparts and white women.

  • According to the most current available data, African-American women only made 64 cents to the dollar compared to white, non-Hispanic men in 2010. White women, however, made 78.1 cents to the same dollar.
  • African-American women only earned $610 per week, whereas black men earned $666. White women’s median usual weekly earnings were $718 in the second quarter of 2013.
  • The rate of unemployment for African-American women was 181 percent more than that of white women in the second quarter of 2013. Black women had an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent versus to 5.8 percent for white women.

Political leadership

While black women have long been community leaders, they are underrepresented in all levels of government.

  • Only 14 of the 98 women in Congress are African American.
  • Of the 29 women of color now serving in the House of Representatives, 16 are black.
  • There is only one African-American female currently serving as mayor—Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore–in the nation’s top 100 cities.
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