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Urban League Study Focuses on Plight of African-Americans

National Urban League President Marc Morial addresses a town hall meeting in Washington, where his organization released its annual report on the State of Black America, April 1, 2011
National Urban League President Marc Morial addresses a town hall meeting in Washington, where his organization released its annual report on the State of Black America, April 1, 2011

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Chris Simkins

A new report by the National Urban League, a leading U.S. civil rights organization, says African-Americans still lag far behind whites when it comes to finding jobs, getting adequate healthcare and being enrolled in college. The annual study, which examines the lives of blacks in the United States, also suggests they are faring worse than whites as the nation emerges from one of the worst economic downturns in decades.

As the U.S. economy struggles to rebound from a long recession, some analysts say the recovery is not being felt in the African-American community. That's why one civil rights organization says it is "declaring a war" on black unemployment with a plan to spur job creation.

"Every war needs a battle plan, and our battle plan is the National Urban League's 12-point jobs plan; jobs rebuild America, putting urban America back to work," said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.

At a town hall meeting in Washington, his organization released its annual report on the State of Black America. It paints a bleak picture for urban and minority communities entangled in economic uncertainty. The study measures the relative status between blacks and whites, based on five areas - economics, education, health, social justice and participation in civic activities.

Valerie Rawlston Wilson, of the Urban League Policy Institute, worked on the report. "There are major areas of inequality in this country between black Americans and white Americans. The areas where we see the greatest disparities, of course, are in economics. That includes things like unemployment."

The U.S. jobless rate for whites is falling. The latest U.S. Labor Department figures put it at 7.9 percent. But the same report says the unemployment rate for blacks rose in March to 15.5 percent. The unemployment rate for black teenagers is 50 percent - more than double the national average. Morial is calling on President Barack Obama and lawmakers to fund targeted job creation programs in more than 400 communities.

"We need a focused strategy on those communities where unemployment is higher, where poverty is higher. The bigger the headache, the bigger the pill. That means, the higher the unemployment rate, the bigger dose of medicine needed to get beyond unemployment and get back to economic growth," said Morial.

The Urban League says another major factor in the economic gap between black and white Americans is the lack of college degrees among many blacks. The report says college enrollment among African-American high school graduates continues to fall, with black students less likely to enroll compared to whites.

Chatman Young, a accounting student at Howard University in Washington, has landed a job at a bank after he graduates. He said without a good education, it will be difficult for young African-Americans to find a good job.

"Because of the lack of jobs we do have, it is going to be very competitive to land a job, and if you don't have the necessary requirements to get even the minimum salary, it is actually going to be very difficult for you to be successful," said Young.

The National Urban League report makes several recommendations to Congress, including providing funding for a summer youth jobs program and creating 100 urban job training schools - to prepare young African-Americans for careers in areas such as technology and healthcare.

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