Say Hello to the New Permanent Underclass.


Black people continue to bear the brunt of this recession:

Twenty-five percent of African-American households suffered from food insecurity in 2009—compared to 11 percent of white households—according to the most recent data on hunger released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food insecure households are those that struggle to put food on the table at some point in the year. Nationally, one in seven—or 14.7 percent—of U.S. households experienced food insecurity in 2009.

Even more astounding is the extent to which child poverty is pervasive among African Americans. According to this new report research done last year, "Ninety percent of African-American children will receive SNAP benefits at some point before age 20, compared to 49 percent of all U.S. children. More than a third of black children live below the poverty line, and overall, 62 percent of black children live in low-income families (both poor and near-poor). "

It's not hard to see why this is the case; after all, unemployment among African American adults is sky high. In October, the unemployment rate for African American women was 12.7 percent, while the rate for men was an astounding 16.3 percent. What's more, African Americans are more likely to live in areas hit hard by the recession -- Southern states like South Carolina, Georgia and Florida -- and are far less likely to have a cushion in the form of wealth or savings. Here in Washington, D.C., for instance, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 15.6 percent, the highest in years.

In the short-term, renewing unemployment benefits, and extending the TANF emergency fund would go a long ways toward alleviating the immediate pain in black communities. As it stands, however, unemployment benefits are unlikely to be renewed, and the emergency fund was killed at the beginning of last month (to say nothing of the dim prospects for progressive TANF reauthorization).

I'll just say that I remain astounded -- and deeply disturbed -- by a political culture that does everything it can to cut taxes for rich people but can't be bothered to care about the depression-level conditions among African Americans or the permanent underclass that will come as a result.

Update: A little more context on that "90 percent" stat. It's an estimate (or a forward trend line) drawn from longitudinal data provided by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. I've included the full report in an updated link, but you can also read it here.

-- Jamelle Bouie

You may also like