Urban League: Black middle class losing ground

July 27, 2011 - 10:43 AM
Urban League Conference

FILE - In this July 21, 2011 file photo, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, speaks to reporters after a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington. Morial said Tuesday, July 26, 2011, that the widening wealth gap between whites and minorities has wiped out gains made over that last 30 years and could foreshadow even more inequality if something isn't done to address it. The National Urban League will open its annual convention Wednesday in Boston. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

BOSTON (AP) — 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 Wednesday.

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 begins 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 Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

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

Morial also is scheduled to give his annual "State of the Urban League Address" Wednesday evening at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, where he will cite the Pittsburgh affiliate of the Urban League as an example of a successful and active affiliate.