Racial Inequality in America: Fast Facts
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
The unlawful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more unarmed black Americans in the past few months sparked outrage across the country. Americans from across the political spectrum as well as from various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds have joined together to take to social media, and even to the streets, to denounce these senseless acts of violence against these black Americans by law enforcement.
Although there is consensus from both liberals and conservatives that the actions of the police officers involved in those situations were cruel and unjust, discord exists over whether or not those actions were racially motivated. In other words, if those unarmed victims like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were white instead of black, would they have endured the same treatment? Would they still have been killed? Those who answer "no" to these two questions argue that the frequent killings of unarmed black people is the result of systemic racism that has long persisted in this country, while those who are unsure of the answer may be skeptical of the idea that systemic racism exists in the US at all.
Yet regardless of whether or not you agree systemic racism exists in this country, various statistics prove without a doubt that this country has a problem with racial inequality. As we all know already, black people have resided in this country since its founding, brought here forcibly as slaves and continued to live as slaves for the next few generations. Even after slavery was abolished for good, Jim crow laws, segregation, continuous discrimination and the rise of white supremacist groups only continued to hinder black people from becoming equal to whites in various aspects of life.
Below are some key statistics that I believe everyone should know. They highlight the racial disparity between black Americans and other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. (sources included at the bottom of this page).
Blacks make up 13% of the US population, while non-Hispanic whites make up about 60%, Hispanics 19%, Asians 6%, and Native Americans less than 2% (US Census Bureau)
Blacks are the group with the highest poverty rate. As of 2018, about 20.8% of blacks lived below the poverty line (US Census Bureau)
Blacks have the highest unemployment rate nationally, 6.5% as of 2019, more than twice as high as whites (3.1%)
Blacks have the lowest median household income, with $40,258 as of 2017. While Hispanic households earned about $50,486, non-hispanics whites earned $68,145, and Asians earned $81,331.
Blacks are more likely than any other group to be raised in a single-parent household. As of 2018, about 65% of black children were living with just one parent (Kids Count Data Center, 2020).
Blacks are also most likely to suffer from obesity compared to other racial groups. According to the CDC, nearly 50% of black adults are obese, compared to about 40% of non-Hispanic whites.
They are also less likely to have health coverage, compared to Asians and non-Hispanic whites. As of 2019, the percentage of blacks without health coverage was 13.6%, compared to 9.8% of non-Hispanic whites and 7.4% of Asians (Rudden, 2020)
Black students are less likely than their white counterparts to have access to college-ready courses. Only 57% of black students have access to a full-range of math and science courses, compared to 81% of white students (US Department of Education, 2014)
Blacks have the third highest dropout rate in this country, only surpassed by American Indians and Hispanics. About 6.5% of blacks between 16 and 24 years old never completed high school.
Blacks are more likely to be retained, suspended, or expelled from school (US Department of Education)
Blacks are more likely than any other group to receive out-of-school suspensions. According to data from the 2013-2014 academic year, nearly 14% of all public school students who were suspended from school were black (US Department of Education, 2019).
Only 26% of blacks over the age of 25 have a bachelor's degree or higher (US Census Bureau)
Blacks are incarcerated at more than 5x the rate of whites. Despite them making up only 13% of the population, they make up nearly 38% of the state prison system, while whites make up 35% (Nellis, 2016).
Blacks are about 5 times more likely than whites to say they've been unfairly stopped by police (Pew Research Center)
Blacks were the victims in nearly 24% of all police killings (again, despite making up only 13% of the population), and 2.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by police (NIH, 2020)
Blacks are the victims in 32% of instances where lethal force was used by police (NIH, 2020).
Blacks are also more likely than whites and Hispanics to be unarmed when met with lethal force by police (NIH, 2020).
65% of black adults say they've been in situations where people acted as if they were suspicious of them because of their race, compared to only 25% of whites
60% of black adults say they've been in situations where people act as though they aren't smart, compared to only 26% of whites
49% of black adults say they've been treated unfairly in hiring, pay, or promotion, compared to only 19% of white adults.
If black Americans truly have equal access to opportunities as their white counterparts, then why is it that they are the group with the highest poverty, unemployment, school suspension, and incarceration rates? Why are they less likely to have access to college-ready courses or to attend the same higher quality schools as their white peers? Why are they more likely than any other group to be unfairly targeted by police and to be attacked while unarmed?
Why is it, that even though blacks have been in this country as long as whites, and slavery has been outlawed for nearly 200 years now, they still haven't attained equality in income, healthcare, educational attainment, and other aspects of living?
The answer to these questions are quite complicated, but it suggests a larger problem within our country when it comes to race and life outcomes. When people are taking to the streets and declaring their support for the Black Lives Matter Movement, they also need to acknowledge many other issues that are unique to the black community. While police brutality is certainly a problem, and officers who engage in these acts need to be held accountable for their actions, it is not the only issue of injustice that the black community faces. Poverty, crime, education, and family structure are interrelated and are all unique issues faced by blacks in this country.
While I admit there is a lot that I still don't know about this topic, as its extremely complex and can be interpreted in many different ways, I am actively trying to learn more.
I also realize that there isn't one, clear-cut solution to narrowing the racial divide in this country, but there are many ways that we can help decrease it and prevent it from getting worse, and that starts by raising more awareness, as well as continuing to educate ourselves about the complex systems that have impacted the black community for decades. With that being said, hopefully this post can serve as an eye-opener for my readers.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February). "Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: United States, 2017-2018." Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db360.htm
"Deaths due to use of lethal force by law enforcement." Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080222/
Kids Count Data Center. (2020, January). "Children in single-parent families by race in the United States." The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Retrieved from: https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/107-children-in-single-parent-families-by-race#detailed/1/any/false/37,871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38/10,11,9,12,1,185,13/432,431
"Lowery, W. (2016, July 11). "Aren't more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no." The Washington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/
Nellis, A. Ph.D. (2016, June 14). "The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons." The Sentencing Project. Retrieved from: https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/#IV.%20Drivers%20of%20Disparity
Rudden, J. (2020, June 29). "Percentage of people without health insurance in the United States from 2010 to June 2019, by ethnicity. Statistica. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/200970/percentage-of-americans-without-health-insurance-by-race-ethnicity/
United States Census Bureau. (2020). "Quick Facts." Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219
United States Census Bureau. (2020, March 30)."Educational Attainment in the United States: 2019." Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/content/census/en/data/tables/2019/demo/educational-attainment/cps-detailed-tables.html
United States Census Bureau. (2018). "Real Median Household Income by Race and Hispanic Origin: 1967 to 2017." Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/2018/demo/p60-263/figure1.pdf
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). The Condition of Education 2019 (NCES 2019-144), Status Dropout Rates.
United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. (2014). "Civil rights data collection data snapshot: College and career readiness". Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/crdc-college-and-career-readiness-snapshot.pdf
Wilson, V. (2019, April 4). "State unemployment by race and ethnicity." Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.epi.org/publication/valerie-figures-state-unemployment-by-race/