African-Americans Not Doing So Well Under the First African-American President

In 2008, buoyed by promises of hope and change, 95% of African-American voters cast a ballot for then-Presidential candidate Obama.

Nearly three years later, they have been rewarded with plenty of change, but with more hopelessness than hope.

In an article he published earlier this month, Walter Russell Mead has argued that “the future…may remember [the Obama administration] as a giant step back for Black America during a period of deepening alienation, anger and despair in America’s inner cities.”

The statistics he cites are both eye-opening and alarming:

  • African-American unemployment is nearly double the rate of white unemployment (16% vs. 8.7%)
  • African-American unemployment seems to be lowest in low tax, conservative states with Hawaii being the only noteworthy exception. These states  include Alaska (5.4% African-American unemployment), Wyoming (6.2%), Idaho (8.0%), Hawaii (9.6%), and New Hampshire (9.6%)
  • African-American unemployment seems to be highest in strongly Democratic states like Wisconsin (25% African-American unemployment), Michigan (23.9%), Minnesota (22%), Maine (21.4%), and Washington (21.4%)
  • The recession has hit African American’s particularly hard because they are over-represented in public sector employment, with almost 20% of employed African-Americans working for the government vs. 15% of whites and 11% of Hispanics

While it would be unfair to blame President Obama entirely for this state of affairs, the numbers do tell a sadly ironic tale: namely that states favoring bigger government and having greater entitlements seem to be failing the populations they purport to serve.

The truth seems to be that despite their good intentions, these policies continue to fail and perversely seem to worsen the racial disparities they presume to reverse.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, Finance and Economics, Media, Policy, Politics, Social Security, Taxes, Unions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to African-Americans Not Doing So Well Under the First African-American President

  1. Sean,
    You’re being ridiculous. The fact that blacks are doing worse since Obama took office is ENTIRELY due to the recession and trends that were well established long before he took office. Secondly, your statement that “The truth seems to be that despite their good intentions, these policies [O’Bama’s] continue to fail and perversely seem to worsen the racial disparities they presume to reverse” is also not true. If you look at unemployment figures, they’re no better or worse than the national average in states that are so-called small government states, e.g. South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, etc. Even in Texas, where the Guv brags about success he’s had in creating jobs, more than 1/3 of new jobs pay minimum wage OR LESS, and the majority of other jobs are low paying as well. The poverty rate in Texas meanwhile has skyrocketed, as has teenage pregnancy, school drop-out rates, and the number of uninsured. Some success.

    • Really? ENTIRELY due to the recession? That’s far too simplistic an explanation and you know it.

      I also noted that Obama did not deserve exclusive blame for the problem, but he did play his part.

      What are the African-American unemployment rates in the states you mention? I guarantee they are higher in Wisconsin and the other states I listed.

      Widespread entitlement programs reduce the incentives for people to work hard. It should be no surprise that people respond rationally to programs that pay them just enough to avoid finding work.

  2. dedc79 says:

    Well, I think there’s a number of problems with this analysis. I’ll focus on one. A better analysis would look at african american unemployment adjusted for the unemployment rate of the state in question.
    Furthermore, african american unemployment may be lower in New Hampshire and Alaska than it is Michigan, but there are more african americans living in a city block in Detroit than there are in all of New Hampshire (a slight exaggeration but New Hampshire is 1.1% african american). In all likelihood the unemployment numbers in states like NH are distorted by how tiny the african american population is there.

    • You are correct in that many of these states also have much lower African-American populations. I mentioned this in an earlier draft, but decided to remove it prior to publication. There are also a number of other factors I did not mention, most notably the breakdown of the African-American family.

      I don’t believe big government programs are exclusively to blame for this sorry state of affairs, but I think they are a big contributor.

  3. Vern R. Kaine says:

    Isn’t half the problem that this keeps getting brought up as a race issue? In Atlanta, a large majority of homeless, street hustlers, and people I saw in the outreach programs were African-American. In Canada, however, it’s more Native Canadians and you’d barely see a black person in those situations yet the economies of both countries and resources available to those communities are relatively the same. And contrary to the U.S., Canada has never had an African-American head of state (they must be racist!)

    When Obama was elected, everyone I knew was proud of the freedom that showed America offers, and has, no matter whether they voted for him or not. It was supposed to show to the African-American community that anything, and everything, is possible. The problem is many African-Americans here and Native Canadians north of us simply don’t – or don’t want to – believe it.

    I work directly with minority educational, job skill, and entrepreneurship programs. I can tell you first-hand that there are TONS of new and great minority business and job initiatives in this country that are simply NOT BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF, either those offered directly by the government or those subsidized/supported by the government in the private sector. I’ll reserve my thoughts on why that is for now, but to the topic of the post, it’s not Obama, it’s not the economy, it’s not racism – people who are not taking advantage of the President’s initiatives are simply choosing not to. The stats are what they are, but I believe the conclusion that a large reason for these numbers is either the economy or the sitting President is flat out wrong based on what I’ve seen in the trenches. The economy and the President, in my opinion, are just incidental.

    • I think the causes are complex, but I also believe big government entitlement programs discourage people from working. Invoking race as an excuse doesn’t help, but I think it is poor incentive structures that really drive much of the problem. For instance, one of President Clinton’s greatest accomplishments was reforming healthcare.

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