William Spriggs

William E. Spriggs chairs the department of economics at Howard University. He is a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute and former executive director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality.

Recent Articles

The Economic Crisis in Black and White

Narrowing America's racial divides and expanding opportunity for all

Today, the U.S. economy is facing one of its greatest challenges in decades. The recent seven-year economic expansion netted a record for producing the fewest jobs since Herbert Hoover was president. The median income for American households has not kept up with inflation. So as the economy slows, households are in a weaker position than they were when the expansion began in 2001. Further, prompted by a housing bubble that inflated home prices to unsustainable levels, Americans facing declining incomes took on record debts secured by those now-shaky home values. From January through August, the economy has been shedding jobs, throwing more workers into the labor market. Polls show that Americans understand the economy is going in the wrong direction. Rightly, they score President Bush, who has overseen the economy skid off course, with the lowest marks on record for a president. But Americans are not expressing much empathy for those who are suffering the most. People have been upset...

The Changing Face of Poverty in America

"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1960 american workers produced a gross domestic Product of $13,847 (in year 2000 dollars) for every man, woman, and child in the country. By 1969, GDP per capita rose to $18,578. In that period, the poverty rate for American children dropped almost by half, from 26.5 percent to 13.8 percent. The most recent data, for 2005, show child poverty has risen again, to 17.1 percent, while the GDP per capita stood at $37,246, roughly double the value in 1969. How did the nation become twice as wealthy but its children become poorer? In 2000, the number of poor Americans reached an 11-year low at 31.6 million, and the poverty rate stood at a 26-year low at 11.3 percent. While the nation again became richer after the post-2001 recovery, more than 5 million Americans fell into poverty, and the latest figures put the number of poor Americans at 36.9 million people. To put a face on...

Another Mistaken Racial Stereotype

President Bush has decided there's a crisis within the Social Security system. Among the many ways in which his supporters justify the need for immediate action, there's this one : Social Security is a bad deal for African Americans. It's hard to miss the irony here. The same conservative coalition that has promoted racist federal judges, resisted affirmative action on college campuses, and otherwise advanced a social and economic agenda that affronts American minorities now seeks to champion the cause of black Social Security recipients. A “privatized” system, they claim, would better serve millions of African Americans. The logic of the conservative groups is that blacks have shorter life expectancies than whites, and thus, a federal retirement program is nothing more than a massive redistribution of assets from working-age African Americans to older, more affluent white seniors. A quick review of the facts should help us understand why much of the conservative argument is wrong and...

Another Mistaken Racial Stereotype

President Bush has decided there's a crisis within the Social Security system. Among the many ways in which his supporters justify the need for immediate action, there's this one: Social Security is a bad deal for African Americans. It's hard to miss the irony here. The same conservative coalition that has promoted racist federal judges, resisted affirmative action on college campuses, and otherwise advanced a social and economic agenda that affronts American minorities now seeks to champion the cause of black Social Security recipients. A “privatized” system, they claim, would better serve millions of African Americans. The logic of the conservative groups is that blacks have shorter life expectancies than whites, and thus, a federal retirement program is nothing more than a massive redistribution of assets from working-age African Americans to older, more affluent white seniors. A quick review of the facts should help us understand why much of the conservative argument is wrong and...