Blacks and Hispanics More Optimistic Than Whites About the Economy

A nationwide survey shows that blacks are more hopeful about the future despite being hit hard by the downturn.

Michael Williamson
Michael Williamson

United for a Fair Economy, a liberal think tank, reports that for every dollar a white family earns in income, black and Hispanics take home only 57 and 59 cents, respectively. The discrepancy savages their net wealth, which is calculated by adding up the total value of one’s investments, savings, homes and other property and then subtracting any debt. Blacks and Hispanics retain 10 and 12 cents of net worth, respectively, compared with every dollar held on to by white families.

Slightly more than half of whites surveyed, 53 percent, thought the nation has peaked in providing “good jobs for American workers.” Their answers to the survey also blamed government in Washington, Wall Street financial institutions and spendthrift consumers “for the economic challenges facing this country today.”

Minority opinion on job creation diverged from that of whites. Some 52 percent of Hispanics, who can be of any race, agreed that U.S. job creativity has peaked. Among blacks, just 35 percent agreed with the statement. But Hispanics put less blame on government or on financial institutions for the nation’s economic challenges than blacks did. Instead, Hispanics blamed profligate consumers.

Blacks were less likely than whites (73 percent versus 89 percent), but more likely than Hispanics (71 percent), to blame government, which employs many African Americans and has supported civil rights causes. Blacks also didn’t completely buy the idea that Wall Street is to blame (68 percent, versus 78 percent for whites and 64 percent for Hispanics). As for consumer spending, while nearly two-thirds of blacks thought it was a problem, they were less likely than whites and Hispanics (82 percent and 74 percent, respectively) to see it as a large issue.

Looking toward the future, blacks showed remarkable optimism. In the survey, more whites (37 percent) and Hispanics (24 percent) than blacks (18 percent) said that the changes they had made in their lifestyle because of the recession would be permanent. Blacks also were more likely (62 percent) than Hispanics (51 percent) or whites (36 percent) to believe that their family’s financial situation would improve.

Who participated in the survey? The poorest whites, 13 percent, had a total annual household income before taxes of less than $20,000. In this lowest-income group, 24 percent were black and 31 percent Hispanic. In the middle class, 17 percent of whites earned $65,000 to $99,000 annually. Eleven percent of blacks and 7 percent of Hispanics were in that category. In the $100,000-and-above bracket, whites constituted 19 percent; blacks, 12 percent; and Hispanics, 6 percent. A majority of those surveyed were between 30 and 64 years of age, and slightly more than half of the respondents were women.

Less than 13 percent of those surveyed were union members. Twenty percent went to church weekly. Of college graduates, 18 percent were white, 10 percent black and 8 percent Hispanic. Whites, at 79 percent, were the greatest percentage of homeowners, and 29 percent had paid off their mortgages. Fifty percent of blacks and Hispanics owned homes, but only 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively, owned their dwellings outright.

While Dick Gregory still appears to be correct when it comes to predicting layoffs, the broad fallout of the Great Recession may have frightened white workers in a way that their Great Depression-era grandparents would have understood. When many domestic and global sectors suffer reversals, the scythe of job destruction draws blood in all communities.

Read the Washington Post article on the survey here.

Frank McCoy is a frequent contributor to The Root.

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