Different economies emerging for the ‘different flavors of black’
As the black population in the United States grows, the diversity in the black community is unprecedented.
According to new research by Nielsen, the number of black immigrants in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1980, to a record 3.8 million, accounting for 1 in every 11 blacks. By 2060, 1 out of every 6 U.S. blacks will be immigrants.
Black immigrants from Africa are driving the recent growth in immigration, accounting for 36% of the total foreign-born black population. Blacks from Nigeria and Ethiopia account for much of that growth. Still, the Caribbean population accounts for nearly 50% of all blacks, with most coming from Jamaica.
As the ‘different flavors of black’ emerge, different economies are also emerging. The Nielsen research finds that the median household income for foreign-born blacks is 30% higher than U.S.-born blacks.
“A lot of the African . . . immigrants are coming specifically to get an education in the States,” says Andrew McCaskill, senior vice president of global communications at Nielsen.
“High numbers are college-educated, and not only have college degrees, but also masters,” he adds.
McCaskill also says that the black immigrant population in the U.S. has a higher percentage of entrepreneurs, and an increased ability to keep dollars in their own communities.
“They’re creating jobs in their communities, they’re buying products from their entrepreneurs. There typically is a culture of recycling dollars, which contributes greatly to the rising fortunes,” says McCaskill.
While U.S. born blacks have had to battle generations of institutional racism, such as predatory lending, that has put them at a socioeconomic and psychological disadvantage that some immigrants have not experienced in this country. McCaskill hopes the changing economic landscape for blacks, citing the Nielsen finding that income growth rates in black households are surpassing almost all others, will help U.S. born blacks and immigrants realize the economic power they collectively have.
“When black consumers see how much power they have, it will change the way African Americans look at themselves, and see how much [of a] power they have become economically. They have the power to drive the products and services that come into their lives and come into their communities,” says McCaskill.
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Black Women at the Bottom of Income Gap
New Census report shows no progress on racial income gaps
When it comes to female workers, African American women have seen the largest decline in earnings since 2009 (-3.6%), while earnings for white women (-0.2%) and Hispanic women (-0.8%) are down by less, according to data from the Census Bureau.
“This is a really troubling trend,” says Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.
“A lot of this has to do with how different workers responded to the recession. While other groups may have stayed out of work after a job loss, African American women had to maintain stronger attachment to the labor market because of their different levels of wealth and savings. There has been more job growth in lower paying occupations, and these are the jobs African American women have been forced to take.”
Overall, the Census Bureau study found that real median household incomes in the United States were not statistically different in 2014, $53,657, from 2013, $54,462. This is the third consecutive year incomes have not shown statistical changes, following two years of declines.
If you break down those numbers by race, median household income for blacks was $35,398 in 2014, versus $60,256 for whites.
“Looking back over an even longer period of time, this has really been a rough decade,” says Rawlston Wilson. She says some of the reason for the sluggish job growth is policy related, citing the lack of a minimum wage increase at the federal level, but she also points out that the income trend reflects the still struggling job market.
“Labor market tightness is one of the things that puts upward pressure on wages. We’re still not nearing full employment even though the numbers look so much better. There are a number of prime age workers outside of the job market who don’t show up in the data,” she adds.
The Census Bureau also found that like incomes, the poverty rate in the U.S. hasn’t budged. It stands at 14.8%, meaning 46.7 million Americans live in poverty.
One bright spot in the report: Healthcare. Nine million more people had healthcare coverage in 2014 than the year before, and just 10.4% of Americans are uninsured, versus 13.3% in 2013.
Rawlston Wilson calls this proof that the Affordable Care Act is working. “It’s doing its jobs of insuring more Americans. If you’re criticism was that it wouldn’t work, clearly the data show that that is not the case.”