The economic recovery is well into its third year. Parsing the data along racial and ethnic lines, however, shows that varying storylines are emerging for different population groups. African Americans and Latinos, for example, typically have substantially fewer economic opportunities than whites. The same can be said for Asian Americans, who also show higher poverty rates along with lower rates of health insurance coverage when compared to whites. This suggests that Asian Americans also have less access to well-paying jobs than whites.
Moreover, while economic opportunities are beginning to improve somewhat for Latinos, Asian Americans, and whites, African Americans are the clear exception—their economic fortunes continued to decline in 2011. The fact that the benefits of the economic recovery are slowly spreading to all groups except to African Americans, at least through the end of 2011, is reminiscent of the African American experience following the previous recession in 2001. During that time period African Americans’ economic fortunes—employment, income, wealth, and homeownership—grew much slower than those of Latinos and declined in relation to those of Asian Americans and whites.
This is why it is important for policymakers to take notice of the disparities and start to undertake serious efforts to both close the economic opportunity gaps between communities of color and whites and to address in a substantive way the lagging experience of African Americans.
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