Study: Black Men Have Made Very Little Progress in 50 Years

Preliminary results from a University of Chicago study find that high incarceration rates and few employment opportunities have resulted in little improvement in the status of African-American men over the past 50 years.

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A demonstrator at a rally after a protest march calling on President Barack Obama to end the war on drugs, and calling for additional investment in jobs in urban neighborhoods, during a Day of Direct Action event in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2013

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The cradle-to-prison pipeline and the sharp decline in employment opportunities during the Great Recession remain very real for black men.

University of Chicago economic researchers Derek Neal and Armin Rick looked at census data to measure the status of black men and presented preliminary findings from their working paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research this week. Their analysis suggests that these systemic conditions have made black men no better off in comparison with white men than they were five decades earlier, Time reports.

“The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act,” the study explains, according to Time.

Researchers found that more than one-third of African-American men between the ages of 25 and 49 were unemployed in 2010. They also found that more than 10 percent of black men in their 30s can expect to be locked up at some point during a given year. Compare that figure with around 2 percent for white males of the same age.

The working paper points to an intensification of punitive correctional policies applied to nearly every major crime category in recent decades—changes that have historically disproportionately affected black men—as driving this trend.

The study also says that “the Great Recession period of 2008-2010 was quite bleak for black men. Recent levels of labor market inequality between black and white prime-age men are likely not materially different than those observed in 1970,” Time reports.  

Although commemorations of the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington and Freedom Summer have taken place over the past year, studies such as this one confirm that there is much left to do to complete the work of both movements.

Read more at Time.