Monday, July 28, 2008


Someone who knows that I follow U.S. policy on poverty and unemployment asked me for a number that is not those typically reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: What proportion of the unemployed are African American?

The answer is not as simple as looking up a ready made official figure.

In June, the African-American labor force totaled 16 million, or 57.8 percent of the total African-American civilian, noninstitutional population (27.8 million). I offer these figures to highlight that "labor force" essentially means civilians out of jail who are able and willing to work.

Of that group, 1.6 million people were unemployed (for a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, compared 4.9 percent for whites). See this Bureau of Labor Statistics table.

Now, in response to the question, the total number of people unemployed in June was 8.4 million (see this other table). Thus, that the 1.6 million who were black represented about 19 percent of all unemployed.

Let's put this in context.

The 37,051,483 people who are black are roughly 12.3 percent of the total population of 299,398,485 (see these 2006 Census Bureau figures). Given that they make up 19 percent of the unemployed, blacks are overrepresented among the unemployed and roughly 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than the overall population.


Anonymous said...

Not to necessarily give you more work to do, but just to make a statement that I am pretty sure is true: That last statistic is even worse in the city you live in, Washington, DC, partly because there are not enough factory or other "regular" jobs like other cities, but mostly jobs that are either government jobs or jobs that are connected somehow with the government that require special knowledge or training.

Cecilieaux said...

I don't think factory jobs are the problem in DC. The problem is racial. Appallingly little progress has been made with the poor, black majority. It got to the point that the unwritten policy since Mayor Anthony Williams is to attract mostly white, unmarried and/or two-income no-kids couples to the center of the city and push out the poor blacks into Maryland through redevelopment. Watch the figures for Prince Georges County, Maryland.

Hendaque said...

How is that a city that is administered by African-Americans has a policy of pushing them out?

Cecilieaux said...

Your question, Hendaque, assumes that policy is made by DC's black mayor and black bureaucrats. It's actually made by the white and powerful Board of Trade; that's who pays the piper.