Center for American Progress

The Conservative Agenda: Serving African Americans?
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The Conservative Agenda: Serving African Americans?

The conservative agenda has not served African Americans well, according to key economic indicators.

How have African Americans fared since conservatives have been in charge of the economy? Not very well. Their increases across key economic indicators have been slower under Bush as compared to the 1990s. Here’s a look at the numbers:

African Americans’ median income declined by an average of 1.6 percent per year under the current administration. In 2006, African Americans’ median income was $32,132, which is actually $2,603 lower than their median income of $34,735 (in 2006 dollars) in 2000. This is an annualized average growth rate of -1.6 percent. In contrast, this number increased at an annual average growth rate of 3.2 percent from 1992 to 2000. And African Americans’ median income is still substantially lower than Whites: In 2006, their median income was $32,132, as compared to $52,432 for Whites.

African Americans’ usual median weekly earnings have stagnated under Bush. In 2006, the usual median earnings of African Americans employed full-time was $554.00 per week—$136.00 dollars less than that of white Americans. In 2000, the usual median earnings of African Americans employed full-time was $553.14—in 2006 dollars—meaning that their usual median weekly earnings grew by just $0.86 under the current administration.

Under Bush, the percent of African Americans without health insurance has increased from 18.5 percent to 20.5 percent. In 2006, 7.9 million African Americans were not covered by health insurance. The rate of African Americans not covered by health insurance increased by an annual average percent point change of 0.30 between 2000 and 2006. This is a much different picture compared to the 1990s. From 1992 to 2000, the number of uninsured African Americans decreased from 20.1 percent to 18.5 percent, an average annual percent point change of -0.20.

The growth rate of the number of employed African Americans has been 4.2 times slower under the current administration than it was during the 1990s. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of employed African Americans grew on average by just 0.7 percent each year, which is markedly lower than the 2.8 percent annual growth rate experienced between 1992 and 2000. Additionally, this growth rate was noticeably faster than the 1.5 percent that Whites saw between 1992 and 2000, whereas under the Bush administration their growth rates have a difference of just 0.1 percent.

The employment to population ratio for African Americans has declined faster than that of the Whites under the current administration. In 2007, the employment to population ratio—the percentage of the civilian population that is employed—for African Americans stood at 58.4 percent compared to 63.6 percent for white Americans. Between 2000 and 2006, the employment to population ratio for African Americans declined by an average of -0.4 percent each year after increasing by 0.8 percent on average between 1992 and 2000. The employed share of the African-American population grew faster than the employed share of the White population throughout the 1990s, but has shrunk faster than Whites since then.

Unemployment levels for African Americans increased by an average of 0.2 percent each year under the current administration after declining in the 1990s. In 2007, the unemployment level of African Americans stood at a distressing 8.3 percent while white Americans hovered at 4.1 percent. This is a sharp contrast to the movement of these levels throughout the 1990s, when African Americans’ unemployment averaged an annual decline of -0.8 percent between 1992 and 2000. Importantly, Whites saw a slower decline in unemployment between 1992 and 2000 with an average growth rate of -0.4percent.

The increase in African-American homeownership has been slower under Bush than the 1990s. The homeownership rate for Whites increased three times faster than the homeownership rate for African Americans between 2000 and 2006. During this time, the homeownership rate for African Americans increased by an average annual growth rate of just 0.1, from 47.2 percent to 47.9 percent, whereas Whites’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.3 percent. This trend is in part because African Americans have actually seen their rate decline since 2004. Compare this to the 1990s, when African Americans’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent from 1994 to 2000. Whites’ rate was 0.6 percent during this time (homeownership data by race are not available before 1994).

More African Americans are in poverty under Bush. More African Americans were in poverty in 2006 than in 2000, just after we saw a vast improvement the 1990s. In 2006, 24.2 percent of African-American individuals were in poverty. Compare this to 2000, when 22.5 percent were below the poverty line, a percentage point change of 0.28. Poverty among African Americans decreased substantially from 1992 to 2000, going from 33.4 percent to 22.5 percent, or an annual average percent point change of -1.36.

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