The Disappearing Black Middle Class

Jesse Washington, Chicago Sun-Times, July 10, 2011

Millions of Americans endured financial calamities in the recession. But for many in the black community, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. {snip}

“History is going to say the black middle class was decimated” over the past few years, said Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion. “But we’re not done writing history.”

{snip}

In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median net worth for black households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the institute.

Austin described the wealth gap this way: “In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.”

Austin thinks more black people than ever before could fall out of the middle class because the unemployment rate for college-educated blacks recently peaked and blacks are overrepresented in state and local government jobs. Those are jobs that are being eliminated because of massive budget shortfalls.

Since the end of the recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor. {snip}

{snip}

Nearly 8 percent of African Americans who bought homes from 2005 to 2008 have lost them to foreclosure, compared with 4.5 percent of whites, according to an estimate by the Center for Responsible Lending.

{snip}

Wiley said Obama should be applauded for several initiatives that have helped the black middle class, such as programs to modify certain mortgages and prevent foreclosure because of job loss. But she would like Obama to aggressively counter the suggestion that first black president would be showing favoritism if he specifically helped black people.

“It’s the right thing to do for the nation,” she said. “Black people are a huge segment of the population, they’re especially hard-hit, and the country cannot recover if the black community–as well as the white community and others–does not recover.”

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  • Ken P.

    “In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median net worth for black households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the institute.”

    For whatever valuable insight this article might hold, this much must also be said: There most likely is something wrong with their measuring instrument. While net worth of all household, and Black ones in particular, most likely has declined in the past decade, an 83 percent decline, not adjusted for inflation, over a 5-year period does not seem to be credible. Further, it is misleading that they should report their results to four significant digits.

  • The Bobster

    I see they used a median net worth for black households. I have a feeling that if they used an average instead, the number would’ve been negative.

    Most of the black middle class works in AA gubmint jobs, so when the stimulus funds ran out, they began to feel the pain that we felt earlier.

  • anonymous

    dang!! I feel your pain………….

    tough luck story of the week……….

    sheese, too bad, so sorry…….

    can’t we pay all blacks 1 million $ each since they have it so tough?

  • Jeddermann.

    And government cutbacks will mean even more blacks have less money. The black middle class is highly dependent on government jobs for employment. Make work jobs in many cases, not productive, and not producing a product with an intrinsic value.

    Postal workers make a good wage and have for some time. An at least in the big cities the workers were predominantly black folks. A lot of those jobs have already disappeared and are going to continue to do so.

  • Who Run Bartertown?

    “…overrepresented in state and local government jobs…” including — pre-eminently — as “educators” in government schools.For more than three decades I have encountered one illiterate, slang-slinging black woman after another who has turned out to be a primary- or secondary-level teacher at a public disinformation academy. Mutatis mutandis, not one of those individuals could ever have been certified in Canada, let alone in Britain. The Jimmy Carter-style innocents among our rulers may have viewed quota-hired pedagogues as a means to “lift” a minority group; of course, the regime’s realists [whose progeny will never, ever darken the door of a government schoolhouse] doubtless saw the scheme for the cynical payoff it was and remains. BTW, the latest “affirmative action” hustle involving low-IQ black women seems to be centered upon state university departments of Nursing. Try not to get seriously sick.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe all the BLACK farmers getting BILLONS from reparation payments will help their bro’s and sister’s.They would run thru all that in NO time at all.

  • James

    I doubt it’s necessarily because of the recession. In even the worst economic times our country has seen in the last 80 years, plenty of African-Americans still manage to find the money to spend on hair extensions, weaves, finger- and toe-nail painting, sports jerseys, the latest two- or three-hundred dollar pair of shoes, multi-thousand dollar sets of rims and tires for their ghetto cruisers (or for the $50,000 Escalade parked in front of the government-assisted living), and for stereo systems in those ghetto cruisers that have to cost upwards of several thousand dollars.

    No, the recession hasn’t hit the African-American community any harder or softer than it hit anyone else. It’s their own short-sightedness and lack of planning that did them in.

  • Question Diversity

    Mr. Washington uses the “net worth” metric as evidence. Problem is, “net worth” includes housing values, which themselves were inflated the middle of the last decade by affirmative action mortgages whose lending rules were detached from any previous financial and economic common sense, e.g. no down payment, no real income verification, no real credit checks. You really can’t lose what you never had to begin with. The black middle class might be disappearing for the same reasons that the white middle class is disappearing (outsourcing, immigration), but to the extent that the black middle class and only the black middle class is disintegrating, it is because it was built on affirmative action quicksand.

  • Old White Jim

    Well, you know what they say about castles made of sand. The government seldom gets anything right, so Blacks shouldn’t have looked to them for a step up.

    There was a good-sized Black middle class in Detroit when I was a kid. It grew the natural way, without government involvement. It collapsed when the feds came to town to try to elevate every Black into the middle class with their social engineering schemes which eventually destroyed most of Wayne County.

    Some of those programs made it possible for Black welfare recipients to move to coveted suburbs such as Highland Park, where few working middle class Blacks could afford to live. Nowadays Highland Park makes Detroit look good.

    As this article reveals, the artificial Black middle class is shrinking in direct proportion to the declining tax base of state and local governments. I expect that the Affirmative Action hires who get a paycheck from the federal government will soon be looking back at the present time as the good old days, also.

  • Conrad

    One question, who did they vote for in 2008? Hope & change, right.

  • WhiteSouthernLady

    A HUGE segment of the population? How about 13%? Or less??? They represent MUCH less than Hispanics. Blacks are just louder, more demanding, and they have professional whiners like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – and of course B.O. et ux – to create monstrous publicity for them.

  • Anonymous

    ‘The world to end. Minorities hit especially hard’.

  • Anonymous

    Net worth is largely a function of how you save and invest. This of course also allows for wealth to be transferred between generations. I didn’t see the change in average Asian net worth, likely up. A more informative study would include net worth at various income deciles.

    A cynic might say that if your culture is about consumption of bling, music, tricked out cars this is the antithesis of deferred gratification. And perhaps those that practice deferred gratification do better.

    The study also doesn’t examine the difference in net worth by race within an income decile. There are blacks that do manage, and what behaviors do they manifest?

  • Anonymous

    Im pretty sure the black middle class was artificial too begin with and was doomed to fail from the get go.

  • Anonymous

    No problem, our politicians are determined to distribute the wealth. Wait until there is a tax on net worth. Actually there is when you die, its called inheritance tax. Politicians can’t resist buying votes with other people’s money. We will go the way of Italy and Greece where an entire economy goes uderground to avoid confiscative taxes.

  • Anonymous

    Disappearing blacks? How about the massive upsurge in unions between black males and white females….almost to the near exclusion of intrablack pairings. It’s high time we stripped the new mulatto set of their black status and labelled them eurafrican to curtail their racial claim to the social safety net.

  • Anonymous

    “Im pretty sure the black middle class was artificial too begin with and was doomed to fail from the get go”

    Two points

    I have traveled un 170 countries believe me Black and Middle class do not together.

    Talk about the other end of the spectrum: Japanese Americans have an average family net worth of 600,000 and American Jews 840,000.

  • Anonymous

    “…and blacks are overrepresented in state and local government jobs. Those are jobs that are being eliminated because of massive budget shortfalls.”

    This says it ALL. In the private sector, an employee of a company needs to produce more value than he/she is paid. If you are paid $40,000/yr, you need to be directly responsible for more than $40,000 in company profit that year or else you won’t last long. In the government sector you can do little to nothing of value and be compensated very well, indefinately. This is why government jobs are like red meat to blacks (and lazy, unproductive people of all races to be fair).

    The only difference between blacks on welfare and blacks working for the government is the blacks on welfare are at least honest and don’t pretend like they earned their government check!

  • Anonymous

    The decline in black “wealth” and the decline in the white population are absolutely correlated. What blacks are too unintelligent to understand is that if the US population was 95% white and 5% black, they would live like KINGS!! White guilt would make sure blacks are GIVEN everything they ask for and it would be affordable due to the surpluses created by white productivity and ingenuity. Most blacks are happy that the white population in declining, which is like a parasite happy that it’s host is dying…

  • Anonymous

    I would really like to know the methodology that was used in this particular study and what metrics they use to arrive at “net worth”. Say your local over-inflated real estate market has fallen and your home is worth $60,000.00 dollars less. But you still have your job and are making your payments. What you actually have in this case is a paper loss, which could be erased in time.

  • daniel

    Does this mean that the blacks in Africa, who basically have nothing, are better off than the black middle-class?. They sure have come a long way.

  • Anonymous

    That government jobs are being cut is very good news. That the AA black will be retained as whites are fired is even better new! Imagine how much more incompetent the government is going to become. Eventually, it must collapse under it’s own weight.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households

    Blacks understand economics? Uh, I don’t think so!!

    THIS is what they understand: Disproportionate wealth. You: $134,280 and rich. He: $13,450 and poor. That makes you RICH. And how did you get that way? Off of him, off of his back. He is poor because YOU are rich!! AND, he wants what’s “rightfully” his – after all the government keeps telling him that the rich are evil and “won’t pay their fair share!”, and the schools tell him that the “White man is keeping him down” by oppressing him keeping him poor and making him live in a GETO.

    Also,, YOU owe him reparations for slavery and JC laws and he wants payback.

    He sees ONE solution: Taking what you have for himself “by any means necessary”, which he believes he has a right to do–if he can maim or kill you while he’s getting “his” stuff, so much the better.

    He also knows the media and government don’t care, doesn’t know he is a useful idiot in the NWO, and the cops will probably stand down as they have been recently. Yes, it’s a BRA and he knows it so he’s going to “git while the gittins good.”

    Prepare appropriately.

    Bon

  • Howard W. Campbell

    On a truly micro-economic scale, how much of the “net worth” is determined by personal choices? My wife and I have 2 paid off cars, but no bling is involved in our modes of transportation. Escalades are nice, but not nice enough to take on 7 years worth of payments at $600 – 700 a month. I don’t go out for lunch 5 days a week and I do not have a liquor cabinet full of top shelf liquor. I’ve worn the same basic timex watch since high school and when one dies, I can purchase a replacement at Big Box mart for $25 – 30.

    Where I live was hurt, but not seriously damaged by the declining value of homes. We actually had some down payment monies set aside before we bought our first house. About 4 months before we bought the first house, we went to the showroom of one of these builders of vinyl villages. While we were there, it hit me that we would be moving into a neighborhood full of the same types of people that we didn’t particularly care for who lived in our apartment complex. For what it’s worth, both of the houses that I have owned were built in the mid-1960’s and were/are pretty solid. My guess is that no illegals were involved in the construction of either house.

    I’m pretty sure that if I had a job making six figures with ironclad job security, my net worth would be more than $2000. As for single black women with $5 in net worth – my elementary school age kids have more than that in their piggy banks. Granted they aren’t supporting derelicts on the side.

  • Shawn (the female)

    So the white middle class is doing well? At least that’s what can be gleaned from this article.

    Whine, whine, whine. One of the things that irritates me the most is that their whiny, entitled behavior is contagious and now engulfing the whites.

  • Criminy

    Yasss – if they’re doing /this/ badly, /in total/, by gawd what further proof that they just can’t make it in this society? Why can’t we give them 50K each and send them back to Africa? Thanks a lot slave holders of yore; no doubt yer laughing at us from your graves.

  • Anonymous

    Class is heritable because money buys you genetics and as Terman’s Termites proved, ‘good genes = does well’, across the board of looks, social accomodation and various wealth building activities from authoring of papers to seats in local government.

    What people don’t realize is that low class is also heritable. Because it starts with a deficit of IQ that, even if it experiences an exception now and again due to hybrid vigor or just exceptional recombinancy within the group, is _always going to drift towards the mean_.

    A rich black man who got that way on pure hard work and the brilliance of a 115 IQ may have a kid that is halfway between his own IQ and that of the black norm, around 87 IQ.

    And that kid will be triple whammied. First, because he will be expected to do as his father did and any failure on his part will be much harder to live past or with, socially. Win big or get out. Second, because nobody will acknowledge that genetics says it’s highly likely he _won’t be smart enough_ to continue the trend. And finally because, whatever element of his existence is based on networking, if that child starts out a rich man in a low middle/working poor dominated ethnic group, it will not be possible for him to use social contacts to compensate for any specific shortfalls (or even excellence) of his own.

    It is because of this generational transition failure and the fact that the worst part of this failure is going to show up in the _second decade_ of a rich ethnic person’s ‘success story’ (trying to pay for college, retirement and the like) that you are seeing the failure of blacks in particular.

    Because having kids is tough. Having kids who are part of the lowest IQ performance race group in the nation is doom. And having so few fellow rich blacks on whom to build wealth through word-of-mouth investment is the nail in their cultural coffin.

    And ours, so long as they seek to push a destructive dependency we can ill afford.

  • Anonymous

    I’m white and work a government job. I could have made these comments myself.

  • Californian

    How much of this decline is owing to choices made by blacks? 70+% illegitimacy? High incidence of violent crimes? Dropping out of school? All 0f these will take you out of the middle class.

    There was a good-sized Black middle class in Detroit when I was a kid. It grew the natural way, without government involvement. It collapsed when the feds came to town to try to elevate every Black into the middle class with their social engineering schemes which eventually destroyed most of Wayne County.

    Indeed. We might ask how much of this dysfunction is a result of white liberal policies? This is why, I think, it is not fair to blame blacks. Rather, we have to look at how liberalism has devastated this country.

  • anonymous

    Beware of statistics. Median mean half above, half below a particular metric. Everybody knows that at least one-third of the black population is in the so-called underclass, people who, by definition, own nothing. Many black still live under “backwoods” conditions in the Deep South. Don’t let the Escalades and bling fool you.

    A more useful statistic might make note of what percentile in the black population corresponds the net worth of the average white family. Or what percentage of black and white 50-year-olds are worth at least, say, $100,000.

    Comparing the net worth by age and race of people who live in the same metropolitan area and have same the same annual income might yield some interesting statistics and grounds for criticism. But aggregate net worth? Too skewed by the prevalence of the underclass.

  • rjf101

    Its because when blacks get money, they spend it, and they don’t spend it on things that hold their value like gold bars or new houses, no, they spend their excess cash on big-screen TV’s that become obsolete in five years and cars that depreciate quick. When white people get money, they tend to invest a little bit.