Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Two Nations 3

My latest reading of Andrew Hacker’s 1992 (updated for 1995) book, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal focused on inequality in income and employment.  In Losing the Race, John McWhorter argued that most African-Americans are not poor, and that a reason that statistics indicate a vastly lower median income for African-Americans than for white Americans is that poor African-American single-parent families are pulling the median down.  I have not yet read anything in Hacker’s book that indicates that most African-Americans are poor (although, as I’ve said before, one-in-four African-Americans in poverty is still high), but he does appear to be arguing that African-Americans struggle financially more than whites do on average.

Hacker compares the median income of African-American males with that of white males and finds that the former is lower.  African-American unemployment, while not encompassing the majority of African-Americans, is still higher than white unemployment and is in the double-digits.  African-Americans are represented in the double-digits in more menial professions, while in the single-digits in upper-class professions.  Hacker acknowledges the existence of an African-American middle-class but says that, often, both parents are working in these families, whereas there are more white families in which one parent can stay at home.
What is interesting in some of the statistics that Hacker presents is that African-American working women make more on average than African-American working men.  Hacker states on page 107 that “If black women have fared better, it is because more of them have been seen as suitable for office positions”, and that “Professional and clerical occupations generally call for attitudes and aptitudes associated with the white world.”

Because Hacker wrote this book in the 1990′s, I searched online for later statistics.  See here for this article, which has 2012 statistics.  The African-American unemployment rate is 10%, which is still the double-digits and is higher than the overall unemployment rate.  It does appear that African-Americans have made significant gains in terms of entering into white-collar professions.  And working African-American women are still doing better overall than employed African-American men.

Something else that stood out to me in Hacker’s book is his discussion of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a welfare program.  Contrary to the myth that the program promotes long-term dependency, Hacker argues that more than half of recipients voluntarily leave the program before the third year.  Nowadays, there is Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), and here is a discussion of how many who leave the program are faring.  The article appears to be arguing that they’re not faring very well.

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