The picture of Black life painted by Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality is bleak at best.

Decades away from the Jim Crow Era ushered in by centuries of chattel slavery, African Americans are still trapped in the nightmare born out of the American Dream.

In the annual “State of the Union” report published in “Pathways,” the university’s magazine on “poverty, inequality, and social policy,” data once again found that Black citizens of the United States are lagging behind their Caucasian counterparts at almost every turn due to a variety of factors.

Report authors found that being born Black is similar to a “one-two punch” that significantly impacts life outcomes. As a result of the systemic racism finely woven throughout the American tapestry, African Americans begin their lives with the odds stacked against them. Black Americans are more likely to be born into families that are struggling to attain adequate pay, quality education, and a home in a neighborhood not plagued by crime or environmental hazards.

“These very unequal starting conditions are of course then reinforced by subsequent exposure to educational, labor market, and criminal justice institutions that are riddled with discriminatory practices,” stated authors of the report, which studied 101 different domains including education, employment, health, housing, incarceration, poverty, and wealth.

According to the study: “African-American men’s employment has been 11 to 15 percentage points lower than other men’s employment in every month since January 2000.” And even if these Black men are able to find a job, statistics show that their median earnings will still be “32 percent lower than the median earnings of White males,” a number that has gone down 7 percent in four decades.

Even with significant upturns in educational achievement, “For every dollar of wealth held by the median White family, the median African-American family had less than 8 cents in wealth.”

Disparities in pay directly impact the ability to break the bonds of the  “substantial residential segregation” mentioned in the 2016 report. Black Americans impacted by inequalities in pay find their housing options are limited to areas with “older dilapidated housing stock,” high crime, and poverty. African Americans tired of paying rent to a landlord—regardless of the location—face another statistic: “In 2014, a full 71 percent of White families lived in owner-occupied housing, as compared with 41 percent of Black families and 45 percent of Hispanic families.”

The report also highlighted the growing trend of razing urban public housing and relocating residents to suburbs.

“Gentrification converted some of the worst neighborhoods into some of the least affordable. Poor people have increasingly been pushed into aging suburbs and rural areas, and we have seen a surge in ‘rural ghettos,’” states the report.

As African Americans stress about finding gainful employment to afford day-to-day expenses, quality housing in food deserts and neighborhoods ridden with blight, crime, and waste dumping their health is being impacted.

“Rent-burdened families have less money to buy basic necessities, such as medical care and clothing,” read the report. “Researchers have connected unaffordable housing to stress-induced illnesses, such as hypertension and anxiety, while others have shown that families who receive housing assistance after years on the waiting list consistently use their freed-up income to purchase more food, helping their children to become better nourished and healthier.”

Authors of the 43-page report concluded that at the rate the U.S. is going, elimination of the many disparities tied to race will need more than the “gradualist process” of change that is often favored over “disruptive reform.” In many domains studied, the gains made by African Americans have remained unchanged since the last major “disruptive reform,” also known as the Civil Rights Movement. 

Study authors say that while the practices might be labeled as “disruptive reform,” America needs to take actions that “in fact entails nothing more than a full-throated and authentic commitment to old-fashioned equal opportunity initiatives.”

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer