Re-Framing the African American Poverty Picture

It seems like every time the census numbers are released I diligently search for the poverty numbers related to African Americans. Today was no different … African Americans once again were the highlight of the highlights… There we were leading the pack with a poverty rate of 25.8%[1], maintaining the status quo, and weighing down the economy, the country, and the rest of the known universe.

Population by Race

I think poverty is a serious problem and nitpicking over percentage and basis points is pretty childish all things considered. My perspective however is that there are several ways to frame the African American poverty dilemma and the one typically used is by far the least flattering (most demeaning),  to the African American.  It turns out that between 2008 to 2009 the AA community arguably reduced the percentage of the total number of AAs in poverty by -1.07% (-107 basis points), as compared to Whites (-0.097%), or Hispanics (-.124%).  This is what I prefer to hear when there’s an AA family in the White House, and  a Democrat (for the time being) in the Presidential seat. Under President Clinton the AA poverty rate was substantially reduced. For the few of us not on our percentage game it may come as a surprise that of the 43.6 million Americans in poverty 18.8 mil are White, 11.9 mil are Hispanic, and 9.6 mil are African American.

African American Poverty rate under the Red and Blue

The following chart[2] showing the movement of the AA poverty rate during recessionary periods from 1980 to 2009 is also encouraging since during these periods the income gap between the rich and the poor typically increase.

African American Poverty Rate against Recessionary Backdrop

The recent historical data would imply that on a comparative basis the African American community is steadily coming to terms with handling poverty within the ranks.  There are a lot of ways to look at this, but in the final analysis maybe there is something in this data that’s a little positive, or at least something we can put a positive spin on.  For the rest of you who may have some time on your hands I leave the analysis and number crunching for last :0).

African American Poverty Rate Analysis




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