Black Americans are about 72% equal to whites, according to a new report on racial equality.
The 2015 State of Black America, put out by the National Urban League, looked at five categories to come up with that number: economics, education, health, social justice and civic engagement. The index sets white as the benchmark, because, according to the report, “the history of race in America has created advantages for whites that persist in many of the outcomes being measured.”
A 100% equality index would mean full equality between the racial group being measured and the white population. So with blacks at 72%, National Urban League CEO Marc Morial says the country still has a long way to go. (Hispanics fared slightly better, with an index of around 78%.)
“Black status, when measured in the five areas that we look at, is still not on par with white Americans,” Morial said. “[It’s an] equality gap that represents the distance we need to cross to achieve full equality in this country.”
That gap widens even more when you break the index down by category. The black equality index drops to 56% when you just look at economics.
“I was stunned at the high levels of black unemployment in many cities,” Morial said. “I can celebrate the tremendous growth in jobs, [but] it appears as though those jobs are bypassing large segments of the black community.”
The black education equality index came in at 76%, health at 80%, social justice at 61% and civic engagement at 104% (Morial explained that African Americans tend to be overrepresented in civic engagement because a higher proportion work in the military and public-sector jobs compared with whites.)
But why did the social justice index increase from last year, up from 57%, when the past few months have seen such high-profile cases of social injustice in Ferguson and elsewhere?
“Numbers don’t always tell a whole story,” Morial said. “Numbers help you tell a story.”
For Morial, the most hopeful part of the study was the health index, up from 78% a year ago. He attributed this uptick largely to the Affordable Care Act, which has caused the number of uninsured African Americans to drop.
“It proves that sometimes public-policy interventions make a difference,” Morial said.
There are other policy initiatives Morial hopes the publication of this report will inspire, including a transportation-infrastructure bill, a youth-unemployment bill and raising the minimum wage. He knows there’s a “tremendous” amount of work to get that 72% up to 100%.
“The word I’d like you to think about is crisis,” he said. “It’s a jobs crisis, it’s a justice crisis, it’s an education crisis. You can walk over here and you can look at the numbers and you can cheer. But then when you look more closely there’s another story, and that’s the story of those being left behind. And to me that’s the point. It’s a tale of two nations.”