The Education-Income Disparity

Attention D.C.-Area Readers

Economic Policy Institute Forum
Reversing the Decline in Good Jobs

Thursday, November 12, 2009
9:00 am to 12:30 am

New research by the Economic Policy Institute documents a three-decades long decline in jobs that pay decent wages and provide benefits. In addition to this steady loss of good paying jobs, reports of wage theft, unsafe workplaces and other labor law violations are rampant. While these are problems for all American workers, not surprisingly, some groups are being hurt more than others. There is significant variation by gender, race and ethnicity in access to the shrinking number of good, safe jobs.

Please join the Economic Policy Institute for presentations on the decline in the quality of American jobs and on policy reforms needed to put America back on a path to creating good jobs.

[RSVP below.]

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Coffee and continental breakfast will be provided.

Gustavo Andrade, CASA de Maryland, Inc.
Gail C. Arnall, Offender Aid and Restoration
Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute
Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project
Philip Mattera, Good Jobs First
Catherine Singley, National Council of La Raza

Economic Policy Institute, 1333 H Street NW, Suite 300 East Tower, Washington DC
(Near McPherson Square Metro (Orange/Blue lines) and Metro Center (Red line))

Space is limited, please RSVP here to attend this event.

Anyone who seriously looks at the data will see that blacks value education more than whites. The question then is why.

My hypothesis is that it simply makes economic sense. Blacks need to be better educated than whites to do as well financially. As the figure below shows, in 2008, the median income for white males with an associate's degree was $52,193. The median for black males with a bachelor's degree was $51,570, slightly lower than the amount for white males with an associate's degree.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009

The pattern is even more dramatic for black males with master's degrees. Their median income is $67,479, $4,193 less than the median for white males with a bachelor's degree. For a black male to earn about the same as a given white male, more often than not, he has to be better educated than the white male.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009

The pattern is weaker among women, but it is still the case that white women earn more than black women at a given education level. The median income for white women with a bachelor's degrees is $50,102. It is $46,209 for black women, $3,893 less than the white median. It is also worth noting that at every education level, women earn less than men.

To have an equal likelihood of being employed, blacks have to be better educated than whites. If employed, to have an equal likelihood of earning as much as a given white person, blacks have to be better educated than that white person. In other words, economic success is more dependent on a high level of education for blacks than for whites, therefore it makes sense for blacks to value education more than whites.

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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2005-2009 by Thora Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Blacks Still Value Education More Than Whites

A New Lecture: “Anti-Black Discrimination in the Age of Obama” by Dr. Algernon Austin

The simplistic idea that impoverished African Americans have only themselves to blame for their poverty, due to their poor cultural values—a notion advanced by many, including black public figures such as Bill Cosby—is believable only if a blind eye is turned to those inconvenient things social scientists like to call “facts.” Algernon Austin soundly refutes the “culture of poverty” argument by paying careful attention to marco-economic data about long-term poverty trends and sociological case studies about persistent discrimination. In other words, unlike the glib punditry, Austin actually looks at the “facts.”
--Dr. Andrew Hartman, professor and audience member, Illinois State University

Contact Dr. Austin to arrange a speaking engagement.

There it is again. I was reading a new Pew Social Trends survey [PDF] on the graying of the work force, and once again researchers have found evidence that blacks value education more than whites. The researchers state, "Blacks (83%) and Hispanics (85%) also are more likely than whites (69%) to say a college degree is a necessity" to get ahead in life.

As I've written before, and contrary to the popular perception, blacks value education more than whites. In a piece written for the Daily Voice last year, I wrote:
the Monitoring the Future survey found that 74 percent of black high school seniors believed that getting good grades was of "great" or "very great importance," but only 41 percent of white seniors felt as strongly. Half of black seniors reported that knowing a lot about intellectual matters was of "great" or "very great importance," but only one-fifth of white seniors felt the same.

Other and more recent surveys have had similar results. A 2006 survey by Public Agenda found that black students were more likely than white students to believe that "increasing math and science education would improve high school." The Higher Education Research Institute's 2006 survey of college freshmen found that the majority-black students at historically black colleges were more likely to aspire to obtain a Ph.D. than college freshmen generally.

Different organizations asking different questions of different black students at different times have all come to the same conclusion: black students value education.
As I also mentioned in that piece, the problem facing blacks is social and economic disadvantage--at least from birth--which makes it difficult for them to transform their values into achievement.

Some would say that statements of values do not matter what matters is action. Well, the behavior of blacks supports my position also. In the Black-White Test-Score Gap, Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips find that "when we compare blacks and whites with the same twelfth grade test scores, blacks are more likely than whites to complete college." They add in a footnote, "Similar results can be found in samples dating back to the early 1960s, so they are not attributable to affirmative action." Whites with similar academic abilities as blacks obtain less education than blacks do.

Jencks and Phillips note that socioeconomic disadvantage from birth onward are factors in the, on average, lower educational attainment and achievement of blacks. When Patrick Mason (in "Intergenerational Mobility and Interracial Inequality: The Return to Family Values," Industrial Relations 46: 1: 71) statistically compares blacks and whites of equivalent class backgrounds, he finds that black women obtain 3 percent more years of education than white men and black men obtain 6 percent more. This finding means that if one could magically give whites the socioeconomic profile of blacks, at least initially, we would predict that whites would, on average, be less educated than are blacks today.

--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

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Copyright © 2005-2009 by Thora Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


We Desperately Need More Job Creation

While the national unemployment rate is still below 10 percent, black men have experienced double-digit unemployment rates for most of 2008 and for all of 2009, so far. In September, the official unemployment rate for black men was 17.9 percent. Black women were not too far behind with an unemployment rate of 13.2 percent.

The unemployment rate is expected to continue to rise into 2010. This means that we can expect hundreds of thousands more blacks to join the ranks of the jobless. A recent survey by New America Media [PDF] found that a third of blacks who now have full-time work are worried about losing their jobs. Another recent survey by the Economic Policy Institute, my organization, found that two-thirds of blacks think that the lack of jobs is the most important economic problem facing the country.

Blacks are right to be worried. The most optimistic estimate is that we should expect to see high rates of unemployment until 2014. It could easily be longer if we have a “jobless recovery” as we did after the last recession.

This does not have to be our future. We know how to create jobs. We know how to ease people’s economic hardship. What we are lacking is the political will.

My organization has presented a plan to Congress [PDF] to create more jobs. It calls for the federal government to do five things. First, we need to extend unemployment insurance again and bolster the safety net by making sure that everyone who needs food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families can receive it. These programs put dollars in the hands of the neediest households. These households then quickly spend these dollars and the dollars go to work in the economy. This circulation of dollars creates jobs while helping the neediest.

The second part of the plan is to provide more aid to states. As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been creating jobs, states facing deficits have been slashing jobs and reducing worker hours. More aid to states could reduce the job cuts at the state-level. It is also important for state agencies to be fully staffed because during a recession is when the public has the greatest need for state services.

The third component of the plan is for the government to create public service jobs as it did during the Great Recession. Many poor, urban communities have streets, parks and schools that need cleaning, maintenance and repair. The government could create a corps to do this or some similar work.

The fourth part of the plan is to provide a tax credit to businesses for job creation. This tax credit would reduce the cost of hiring new workers and therefore increase hiring.

The final part of the plan is to increase spending on infrastructure, especially on school construction. All of these proposals are very effective at creating or saving jobs, and jobs are desperately needed, especially among blacks.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has been important in helping to ease the damage cause by the recession. Unfortunately, it was created before anyone had a sense of how bad this recession would turn out to be. The ARRA was designed to create or save 3.5 million jobs, but we are currently short 10.7 million jobs. Three and a half million jobs helps, but it is not enough.

If we allow the economic suffering to persist for the next five years or more, we should expect worse outcomes for black youth. Children who grow up in poverty have worse educational and economic outcomes. We should expect stagnating or declining test scores and increases in youth crime and teen pregnancy. Each additional year of high black unemployment will lead to an additional increase in the poverty rate for black children.

We need jobs!


Where Are the Jobs?

Algernon Austin presents an excellent, concise, and wonderfully read scholarly examination of the complicated landscape of race, class and popular perception. Besides the prison industrial complex, black strides in education, poverty rates, crime and other indices contradict claims that blacks are “moving backward.”
--Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut and author of Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004 and Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (University Press of Kansas), 2007.

Purchase Getting It Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals
Are Failing Black America
by Algernon Austin
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There should be many loud voices screaming for more federal job creation efforts. We are down 10.7 million jobs when considers both the number of jobs lost over the recession and the continued growth in the labor force due to new entrants over the 21 months of the recession. The most optimistic assessment I have seen is that by 2014 we will manage to return to "normal" levels of unemployment. We are going to suffer from high unemployment for many years to come unless we get serious about creating more jobs now and making sure that we do not have a "jobless recovery." Of course, high unemployment for America means high unemployment times 2 for black America. Below are a few voices from people who understand the depth of the crisis.

Wanted: Leadership on Jobs

By every meaningful measure, the weak job market deteriorated further in September. Federal stimulus spending has prevented an even worse decline. But that is cold comfort for the tens of millions of working men and women for whom conditions are bleak and getting bleaker, and for the millions more who are destined to lose their jobs — or to have their hours and compensation cut — in the months and years to come.
New York Times Editorial Board

Yes, You Can -- If You Can Without Obama

At a job training center that serves a largely black population in the District, a photograph of President Obama hangs on a wall with signs that say, "Yes, I can," and "Yes, you can." But when it comes to Obama actually addressing the devastating rise in unemployment among African Americans, those words might as well read: Sure I could, but no, I won't.
Courtland Milloy, Washington Post

Does Obama Get It?

The big question on the domestic front right now is whether President Obama understands the gravity of the employment crisis facing the country. Does he get it? The signals coming out of the White House have not been encouraging.
Bob Herbert, New York Times

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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2005-2009 by Thora Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Are Green Jobs "Good Jobs" for African Americans?

This short presentation [PDF] was given at the Annual Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. It shows that there are very few good jobs in the American labor market and the share of white and black workers in good jobs has been declining over time. The decline of good jobs is driven by the decline of typically male, unionized, manufacturing jobs. Thus, black men have seen much greater declines in "good jobs" than black women.

Advocates are looking to green jobs to begin to reverse these trends. The good news is that most green jobs are projected to be good jobs. Black workers will be able to capture a fair share of these green jobs.