Quality-of-life index finds blacks lagging

Racial gaps in economics, education, health reported

April 06, 2005|By Victor Manuel Ramos | Victor Manuel Ramos,ORLANDO SENTINEL

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Blacks have won legal equality through the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement, but they are not on a level playing field in terms of economics, health, education and social justice, according to a national study being released today.

Blacks have become more active in civic groups and are making slight improvements in overcoming poverty, National Urban League study found, but are not as well off as whites when hundreds of quality-of-life indicators are measured.

The analysis compared factors such as how many people live in poverty and who gets rejected for mortgage applications to place a numerical value on racial inequality.

According to that index's measures, the average black person has achieved 73 percent of the social, economic and health benefits that the average white person has, the same margin as last year, when the data were first compiled.

According to the study, the annual median income of blacks is about $21,000 less than for whites, and blacks have fewer retirement benefits and less equity in their homes.

The percentage of blacks who live in poverty is more than twice that of whites. And fewer than 50 percent of black families own their homes, compared with more than 70 percent of whites.

That's partly because blacks are denied mortgages much more often than white are, the study says. It also takes longer for a black person to find a job, and blacks have double the unemployment rate of whites, it says.

Differences also were found in education and health, with a racial gap in college graduation rates and a higher prevalence of diabetes, homicide and HIV among blacks.

Roderick Harrison, who runs an African-American data clearinghouse for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies think tank in Washington, said any index is arbitrary but that the underlying information in the Urban League study shows substantial inequities.

"A lot of these inequalities are related to each other, because if you start with an education inequality you perpetuate inequalities in earnings, income and wealth," Harrison said.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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