The Pending Death of the Black Middle Class

Part I

For a majority of middle class Blacks, it may not matter if President Obama and the politicians on Capitol Hill agree to extend the middle tax cuts. This is because based on the current collapse of the black middle class and the disheartening failure of black children in the classrooms, there may not even be much of a black middle class in America ten years from now.

In America, the middle class typically refers to those who earn an annual income of between $35,000 and $100,000 per year. This segment is then further divided in three smaller subdivisions of upper, middle and lower middle class. Those in the lower middle class segment typically have annual incomes between $35,000 and $50,000. This is the segment of American workers who are “barely making the ends meet.”

According to recently released data by the U.S. Census Bureau the median income for Black families is around $32,000 per year. This means that the median Black family is lower middle class, barely making ends meet. Being lower middle class should be the basic minimum standard for which majority of blacks should be able to attain and maintain. By setting a solid foundation from which their children and future generations can ascend the socioeconomic ladder, a lower middle class family has an opportunity for prosperity in the next generation.

Below is a chart showing the size and the income distribution of the Black middle class relative to other races, based on recently released data from the US Census bureau.

The Black middle class is roughly 38.4 percent of the African American population. Though this just slightly smaller than the middle classes of the other major races, the black middle class is the smallest and earns the least income. Blacks have the lowest percentage of middle class members who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

Apparently, the collapse of the American economy and particularly, the collapse of the real estate, manufacturing, auto and banking industries have wreaked the most havoc on the Black middle class. The percentage of blacks who earn less than $35,000 per year is growing as the percent of blacks who fit the definition of middle class is on the decline.

Maybe unemployment is to blame. The unemployment rate for blacks is 17.3 percent, which is almost twice the national average.
Among college-educated blacks, the unemployment rate averages close to 7.3 percent as opposed to 5.7 percent, which is the unemployment rate for college-educated adults from other races.

Being unemployed means not being able afford one’s lifestyle or being able to pay all of one’s bills, and thus creates debt. Real estate debt is killing the black middle class. Over the last three years, Blacks have lost more real estate due to foreclosure than any other period in history. The loss of real estate is also a loss of a key foundation for amassing wealth.

Because of the burden of debt and unemployment, many working class blacks have joined the ranks of the working poor, those who live in poverty and/or are homeless.

If this continues, the black middle class will continue to shrink and lose wealth and income. In order to counter these trends two things must be done immediately. First, we must have to look deeper into wage and employment discrimination. Because one has to have been working at one point to even qualify for unemployment benefits, a skyrocketing unemployment rate means that once working class blacks are simply not being rehired. This is simply unacceptable. Equal work for equal pay should not just be a rallying for women it should be a rallying cry for blacks also.

The second thing that must be done is to improve the public educational system so that greater majorities of black children have an equal chance of joining the ranks of the middle class and becoming self-sufficient. However, as you will see in part two (check back tomorrow) in this series on middle class black America. The chance of black children joining the ranks of the middle class over the next 5 to ten years is getting bleaker.

Source: Sickly Cat

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