In the Washington Post today, there is an article expressing skepticism regarding the Donald Trump campaign’s recent outreach to African-Americans.
This was Traditional Trump, riffing a bit more on what he wanted to say in a manner that probably didn’t do him much good.
Consider: Black Americans are not “living in poverty” as a general rule. A quarter of the black population is, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about the same as the percentage of Hispanics. In Michigan, the figure is slightly higher. Most black Americans don’t live in poverty, just as most white Americans don’t.
Since this discourse appears to be getting into throwing competing statistics around, this article aroused my curiosity about reality.
Here’s what the Census Bureau has to say about the situation:
- The official poverty threshold for a family of four is $24,250 /y
- Census Bureau data show that as of 2014, 37% of black households make under $25,000 /y across two income categories, whereas for white households, the figure is 20%
While it is true that most black families do not live in the official definition of poverty, census estimates paint a much more dismal picture than the stated one-quarter, even if the higher income category in census data is split in half.
But still, I am not really satisfied, because poverty is relative; according the government, a family of four making $50,000 /y should budget no more than $120 per week for groceries (2011).
Also, according to Census Bureau data, black families earning under $50,000 /y, the approximate US median income, total 64%, whereas for white families, that figure is 42%.
Consider: The unemployment rate in the black community is higher than that in the white community, as it has been since the Department of Labor started keeping track. Among young blacks, though, the figure is not 59 percent — unless (as PolitiFact noted) you consider not the labor force but every young black American, including high school students. Many young black high school students are unemployed. This isn’t a metric that the Labor Department typically uses, for obvious reasons, but calculating the rates for young whites gives you about 50 percent, too.
Again, it’s true that the youth unemployment rate for black Americans is not 59%. Trump actually didn’t claim that the black youth unemployment rate is 59%, either. But the reality according to BLS that defines the youth group as ages 16-24, of black Americans in the youth group that has an overall unemployment rate of 15.7% in July 2016, those looking for full-time work is 46%, while the share of those looking for part-time work declined by 25%, as did their share of Not in the Labor Force by 8%. Their participation rate is 7.8%.
Here now, I’ve caught a bit of data sleight of hand, because the overall white youth unemployment rate is higher at 19.3%, while those not in the labor force declined by 16%, and their participation rate is 13.6%.
So what does it all mean?
One possibility is that, on a percentage basis more white youth are actively looking for jobs. When census income data is considered together, it might be actually be useful to consider those categorized as Not in the Labor Force for the black youth group. Where are they? Is WAPO even interested in where they are?
Of course, the WAPO is just a newspaper that, like just about everyone else, serves its own purposes. But the disparities in the data do mean something about real people, real human beings, and it doesn’t really matter if these data patterns are nothing new.
In fact, that is what I think to be Trump’s point – that the current state data is appalling and long-standing. Considering that his main opponent’s answer to negative monetary shocks is that the government that believes a family of four can survive on $120 in groceries per week should hand out checks of minimal compensation until we can get back on our feet – whenever that may be, perhaps after a decade of natural healing – and whose campaign is set on the status quo with a few tweaks around the edges. There is no relief being offered or even discussed because, as WAPO states, these are data patterns present since measurement began, as if are they much easier to live with than to address.
I am not black. I haven’t a clue what it is to be black. I have, however, lost my job and have had to live like the 64% of black families making under the median income. I understand what it is to try to stretch $120 in groceries, have bills go unpaid, broken household items that go unpaired, emergencies that one can do nothing about and doing it with seemingly no hope because there were no jobs to be had. It was but a glimpse of what these families go through day in and day out for decades, lifetimes; and I did it with time to devote to devising ways of saving money, stretching every penny – not while working too!
Those data points need to change.
PS: I’ve been into 1930’s music lately, and I really like this one by Bessie Smith