New Census Bureau data released earlier this week illustrates what we at the Center for American Progress have known for some time: the American Dream remains largely inaccessible to minorities due to growing inequalities in income, education, and home ownership. That’s why earlier this year the Center decided to support the creation of a new Task Force on Poverty to craft new and innovative ways to address the problem.
The need for a new approach is unmistakably clear in the new Census Bureau data .The findings indicate that white households had incomes that were two-thirds higher than those of African Americans and 40 percent higher than those of Hispanics in 2005, the last year complete data was available. Although more black adults are receiving high school diplomas, white adults are still outpacing blacks in graduating from college.
Whites are also more likely to own their own homes. Three-fourths of white households owned their homes in 2005, compared with 46 percent of black households and 48 percent of Hispanic households. This is not surprising; as The Washington Post reports, white families can more easily afford homeownership because they have greater access to credit than an African Americans.
These trends clearly deviate from the shared American values of working toward the common good, which the recent midterm congressional and state-level elections reaffirmed. The cycle of poverty in America is perpetuating itself along racial lines.
Back in February, the Center’s Task Force on Poverty began addressing these issues and what specifically Congress can do to cut America’s poverty levels in half in 10 years. Through a series of fact-finding missions around the country over the past year, our task force has identified promising new areas where policymakers can create opportunities to address endemic poverty in America. Beginning next month our task force will gather to review our findings, with plans to release our report earlier next year.
In the meantime, the Center and the Task Force will continue to highlight the problems of poverty in America and possible solutions in specific industries. Our earlier studies of the problem noted that while blacks comprise only 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population, they represent 25 percent of all people living below the poverty line. Last year, the median income for black households was $30,939, compared to $36,728 for Hispanic households and $50,622 for White households.
As noted in a recent report by the Center for American Progress on economic mobility, home ownership engenders prosperity, access to better education, and higher-paying jobs. For blacks and minorities, the distance between the rungs on the ladder to the American Dream is growing. The Bush administration’s policies have not worked to spread opportunity for all Americans. According to a Center for American Progress analysis of recent Census Bureau data, under the Bush administration, the average annual increases in income for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, respectively, has been 1.22 percent, 0.56 percent, and 0.50 percent, failing to even keep up with inflation. Compare these stark numbers with the figures from 1993-2001: 4.16 percent, 6.46 percent, and 5.62 percent.
Americans have felt these trends in their day-to-day lives, in the diminishing size of their wallets and in their dreams unrealized. They have demanded change, as seen last Tuesday when their votes handed the Bush administration a progressive Congress. The new Congress can start to address these disturbing Census numbers by passing the much overdue minimum wage increase.
America must redouble its effort to get this country back on the track—to make the American Dream accessible to more Americans.
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