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If African Americans were considered three-fifths (60%) of a person in 1788 when the framers of the Constitution counted slaves for tax purposes, then their economic value in 2004 amounts to less than three-fourths (73%) when compared to their white counterparts, states the National Urban League in its State of Black America 2004 Equality Index.
The Equality Index measures disparities between blacks and whites in economics, housing, education, health, social justice, and civic engagement. Of those six categories, civic engagement was the only area where blacks outranked whites, partly due to the number of blacks who volunteer in the military.
According to the report, leveling the playing field would require that an additional 23,698 black students earn bachelor’s degrees from four-year colleges every year. It would also require that 751,000 blacks find employment and that three white businesses fold for every black startup.
Hindrances to wealth creation are keeping African Americans from the full enjoyment of their American citizenship. Banks deny blacks mortgages and home improvement loans at twice the rate of whites. According to the report, less than 50% of black families own their homes, versus 70% of whites. Moreover, black homes are valued, on average, at $42,800 less than white homes.
Also in the Urban League’s report is a national poll that examines the attitudes of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans pertaining to the quality of life in their communities and pertinent social, economic, and political issues. Fifty-four percent of the African Americans surveyed said that things will remain the same or get worse for them, identifying race as the key concern. Fifty-one percent of the African Americans surveyed were more optimistic about the quality of life improving for Latinos and Asian Americans.
“This is by no means to deny — or not to celebrate — the progress [blacks have] made,” says National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial about the report, “[but rather] to advance the conversation about equality in America among Americans.”