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Urban League: Black middle class losing ground

Associated Press | 8/3/2011, 1:49 p.m.
From left: George A. Russell Jr., executive vice president and director of Corporate Citizenship for State Street Corporation; Marc...
Dr. Keith L. Black, director of Cedars-Sinai Nuerological Institute, received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Legend Award at the National Urban League Conference last week. Don West

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Dr. Keith L. Black, director of Cedars-Sinai Nuerological Institute, received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Legend Award at the National Urban League Conference last week.


From left: George A. Russell Jr., executive vice president and director of Corporate Citizenship for State Street Corporation; Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; Jim Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority; and Darnell Williams, president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts were instrumental figures at last week’s 2011 National Urban League Conference. (Don West photo)

The economic downturn has erased the gains made by the black middle class over the last 30 years as the unemployment rate of blacks with a four-year college degree has skyrocketed, according to a new study by the National Urban League Policy Institute released last week.

The study said that the unemployment rate for blacks with a four-year college degree has tripled from 1992 while overall black unemployment levels are nearing 1982 levels when it was close to 20 percent.

The unemployment rate for blacks with a four-year college degree was 6.5 percent in 2010 compared to 2.9 percent of whites with college degrees, the study said.

The report, released just as the National Urban League began its annual conference in Boston, mirror similar studies by the Economic Policy Institute and the Pew Research Center that says the economic meltdown in recent years has hit black households hard.

Like the previous studies, the Urban League report said black home ownership fell sharply in recent years due to the mortgage crisis and affected overall black medium income.

The National Urban League Policy Institute used U.S. Census and U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for the study.

National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said the report showed that the recession affected the middle class, not just poor and working class African Americans as some might assume.

“These are people who played by the rules. They built wealth, went to college and had good jobs,” said Morial. “But in a short period of time, they’ve fallen back.”

The large losses by the black middle class, Morial said, is one of the key reasons why the median wealth of black household declined dramatically since 2005.

The median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks, according to an analysis released last week by the Pew Research Center.

The National Urban League launched its conference last Wednesday in Boston with the release of the report entitled “At Risk: The State of the Black Middle Class.”

Associated Press