Blacks lag behind in well-being

Despite gains of blacks, whites ahead on health, wealth, education, justice

March 25, 2004|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,NEWSDAY

WASHINGTON - More than 200 years after the Constitution stopped counting each black American as three-fifths of a person, the overall well-being of blacks is still about three-quarters that of whites, according to a broad new survey released yesterday by the National Urban League.

Most strikingly, blacks' economic health is barely half that of whites, the survey indicates. The United States' 34.6 million blacks also have poorer health, receive lower-quality education and are granted fewer social justice protections than whites.

"While we have gained much ground in the past 40 years since the historic civil rights era, the ground on which we stand today is precarious and shaky," said Marc H. Morial, president of the New York-based Urban League, speaking from the National Press Club in Washington. "There's good news and there's bad news."

In the past half-century, the black middle class has quadrupled, poverty has shrunk by half and there are more black elected officials than ever, Morial said.

Despite those gains, such progress is outweighed by persistent and stark inequality, the data show. Across the boundaries of education, economics, health, social justice and civic involvement, the quality of blacks' living conditions was 73 percent that of whites, according to the so-called equality index compiled by Global Insight, a Pennsylvania-based research firm.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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