America's North Shore Journal

Supporting the Ninth Amendment

Poverty in America – black poverty issues

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The Census Bureau’s report titled Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008 contains information on the poverty rates and total persons in poverty for several races. The races are self-defined by the individuals surveyed, and by the Census Bureau in standard terms that may not be helpful in studying this topic.

Hispanics are listed as “of any race”. Blacks have been categorized in two differing ways, Black Alone and Black Alone or in Combination. Let’s look at how the two definitions for Black in the report compare for 2008.

Alone Combo Diff
Population 37,966,000 40,097,000 2,131,000
In poverty 9,379,000 9,882,000 503,000
24.7% 24.6%
Female head of hshld in pov 5,533,000 5,782,000 249,000
60.0% 58.5%

However you define Black, these numbers are well above those for the entire population. Still, it is a matter of perspective. For the purposes of this post, the numbers graphed are from the Black alone category. Click on the graph for a larger image.

Historical graph of black poverty rates in America through 2008

Historical graph of black poverty rates in America through 2008

Historical graph of black poverty rates in America 1990 to 2008

Historical graph of black poverty rates in America 1990 to 2008

It is very clear that black poverty rates in the United States are near record lows. Other than 1999 through 2001, they would be a record low. The Clinton bubble drove the rates to unheard of lows, but the bursting of that bubble seems to have revealed a core poverty rate that seems inflexible, somewhere between 24-25% of the total Black population.

Let’s look at one facet of Black poverty that is often cited as significant, single parent, female head of household. For the purposes of this post, the numbers graphed are from the Black alone category. Click on the graph for a larger image.

Historical poverty rates for Black single parent households headed by females through 2008

Historical poverty rates for Black single parent households headed by females through 2008

Historical poverty rates for Black single parent households headed by females 1990 to 2008

Historical poverty rates for Black single parent households headed by females 1990 to 2008

Rates are at near historical lows, but appear to be edging upward, advancing from 37% to 40% in the last eight years. Still, the 2008 is lower than any rate from 1999 on back.

Again, the numbers suggest a core of Black people in poverty, in this case people living in single parent households headed by a female.

It is the people who are in permanent poverty, the core, that ought to worry Americans. The data appears to suggest that despite some of the best economies of the last several generations, a group of Blacks failed to benefit from the successes. Single family households seem to be at the center of this, accounting for nearly 2/3 of those in core poverty.

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