Still A Dream:
Over 500 Years To Black Economic Equity
A detailed new report marks the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington with some sobering news — and some inspiring solutions.
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is the Chief of Organizing, Policy, and Equity for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
Chuck Collins is director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Omar Ocampo is a researcher at the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Sally Sim is senior organizer and project specialist at National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
The authors wish to thank Kalena Thomhave, Jiaqin Wu and Helen Flannery.
The following is an excerpt.
Black Americans have endured the unendurable for too long. 60 years after the famed March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, African Americans are on a path where it will take 500 more years to reach economic equality.
In a few areas, African Americans have made substantial socioeconomic advancements since the 1960s.
- In 1963, Black Americans had a stunningly high poverty rate of 51%, white poverty was 15%. By 2021, poverty rates had declined, with white poverty at 8% and Black poverty at 20%. Though this is a substantial decline, it still means almost one in 12 white Americans are in poverty and one in five Black Americans live in poverty.
- The rate of Black high school attainment has sharply increased over the past 60 years from 24.8% in 1962 to 90.1% in 2022. The Black-white education gap, as a result, has narrowed. However, there is still a substantial divide between Black college attainment (27.6%) and white college attainment (37.9%), but the college attainment advantage for whites in 2022 (1.7 times that of Black Americans) is substantially lower than the advantage whites had in 1962 (2.4 times that of Black Americans).
- Unemployment has been at historically low rates for African Americans over the last few years. Between 1974 and 1994, Black unemployment consistently remained in the double digits, with rates twice as high as those for white Americans. From 1994 to 2017, Black unemployment rates varied between 7% and 10%, occasionally spiking to nearly 17% during recessions. However, since 2018, Black unemployment has reached record lows of 5% and 6%, except during the 18-month recession caused by Covid-19.
Yet there has been minimal progress in most socioeconomic indicators. At this pace, it would still take centuries for African Americans to reach parity with white Americans.
- For every dollar of white family income, African Americans had 58 cents in 1967. In 2021 African Americans had 62 cents to the white household’s dollar. With this same rate of progress, it would take Black households 513 years to reach income parity with white households.
- Median household income for African Americans has grown just 0.36% since the turn of the century and it is still lower today than the white median family income in 1963.
- In 1962, African Americans had 12 cents for every dollar of wealth of non-black Americans. By 2019, African Americans had 18 cents for every dollar of wealth of non-Black Americans. At this rate it would take 780 years for Black wealth to equal non-Black wealth.
- Black homeownership increased from 38% in 1960 to 44% in 2021, an increase of 6%. White homeownership has increased from 64% in 1960 to 74% in 2021, a 10% increase. In over 60 years, there has not been a bridging of the Black-white homeownership divide.
There are a wide range of solutions necessary to narrow the racial economic divide. The five that we believe would make the most difference are:
- A push for full employment and guaranteed jobs;
- A massive land and homeownership program;
- A commitment to individual asset building;
- Policies to reduce dynastic concentrations of wealth and power; and,
- Targeted reparations.