Books

25 Things Everyone Needs to Know About the Lives of Black People in America

The numbers illustrate the unfinished business in our efforts to establish justice for all.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Paul Matthew Photography

The following is an adapted excerpt from Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-First Century. Copyright © 2014 by Monique W. Morris. Reprinted with permission of The New Press, New York, NY.
 
Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-First Century is intended to serve as a resource for those looking to better understand contemporary issues in Black America. The texture of Black America's lived experiences is complex, and therefore reflects a story that cannot be told by quantitative data alone. However, the numbers help us to situate our discussions. They help us ground and focus our conversations such that we can generate informed responses to the conditions of Black America.
 
The statistics below represent a small snapshot of what is included in the book. While there are also stats in the book that demonstrate significant progress over the past few decades, the numbers below reflect that there is still unfinished business in our efforts to establish a foundation of dignity, liberty and justice for all.
 
EDUCATION

1) 42 percent of Black children are educated in all high-poverty schools (both elementary and secondary). By comparison: 38 percent of Latino children are educated in high-poverty schools, 31 percent of Native American children are educated in high-poverty schools, 15 percent of Pacific Islander and Asian children are educated in high-poverty schools, and 6 percent of White children are educated in high-poverty schools.

2) Black youth make up 16 percent of public school students and 9 percent of private school students in grades K–12 nationwide but account for: 35 percent of in-school suspensions, 35 percent of those who experience one out-of school suspension, 46 percent of those who experience multiple out-of-school suspensions, and 39 percent of those who are expelled.

3) The unemployment rate for Black high school dropouts is 47 percent. By comparison, the unemployment rate for White high school dropouts is 26 percent.

ENVIRONMENT

4) 78 percent of Black Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, compared with 56 percent of White Americans.

5) African Americans are 20 percent more likely than Whites to have asthma, a condition that is exacerbated by air pollution.

6) Black Americans cause one-eighth the amount of global warming pollution caused by White Americans.

7) Hurricane Katrina shrank the Black population in New Orleans by 57 percent.

ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS

8) Black writers are underrepresented as television writers by a factor of 2 to 1, compared with the percentage of Black people in the U.S. general population.

9) Black actors have received only 4 percent of the Oscars for best acting since 1929.

10) Although African Americans make up just 67 percent of the players in the NFL, Black players received 92 percent of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during the 2010–11 season—a statistic that sociologists believe may be linked to a negative reaction to “cockiness” or “self-promotion” when demonstrated by a Black player.

HEALTH

11) Black mothers are more than twice as likely as White mothers to experience the death of a baby within the first 28 days of the infant’s life.

12) African Americans make up 4 percent of all adults reporting serious psychological distress, but that percentage doubles for African Americans below the poverty line.

13) Most of the nation’s worst food deserts are disproportionately located in cities with a high percentage of Black Americans. The nine worst food deserts are located in the following cities (percent African American): New Orleans (60 percent), Chicago (33 percent, Atlanta (54 percent), Memphis (63 percent), Minneapolis (19 percent), San Francisco, in the historically Black communities Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley (33 percent and 13, respectively), Detroit (83 percent),New York City (26 percent), Camden, New Jersey (48 percent)

JUSTICE

14) Only 14 percent of Black Americans have a great deal of confidence in local police officers to treat Black and White Americans equally, compared with 38 percent of Whites.

15) Nationwide, 16 percent of persons under the age of 18 are Black, and 32 percent of total juvenile arrests are of Black youth.

16) 55 percent of Black Americans report avoiding certain places or neighborhoods because of a concern over crime, compared with 46 percent of White Americans.

17) Wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for Black formerly incarcerated people than for White formerly incarcerated people.

18) The rate of drug use among Black people ages 12 and older is 10 percent, yet Black people account for 32 percent of those arrested for “drug abuse violations” in the United States.

MONEY & JOBS 

19) The unemployment rate for African Americans with a four-year college degree is 8 percent, almost double the unemployment rate for similarly educated Whites (4.5 percent).

20) The current Black real median household income is 16.8 percent lower than its pre-2001 recession peak.

21) Although Black (including multiracial Black) people make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, 37 percent of people who are homeless are Black.

22) African Americans are nearly twice as likely as all Americans to have been affected by the mortgage lending crisis; up to one-quarter of all African Americans who purchased a home in the years leading up to the 2008 recession may ultimately lose it.

POLITICS, VOTING, CIVIL ENGAGEMENT 

23) African Americans compose 8 percent of state legislators nationwide, a figure almost unchanged since 1992, when 7 percent of state legislators were Black.

24) 25 percent of elderly African American voters (compared with 8 percent of elderly Whites) do not possess the identification that would be required under new photo-ID laws introduced in 40 states before the 2012 election.

25) One in every 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, a rate more than four times greater than the rate for the rest of the U.S. population.

 

Monique W. Morris is co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute. She is a Soros Justice Fellow and formerly served as Vice President for Economic Programs, Advocacy, and Research for the NAACP. A faculty member at St. Mary’s College of California, she is the author of the novel Too Beautiful for Words. Morris lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two daughters.