Have we reached the end of the road for the black middle class?
Barbara Ehrenreich, president of United Professionals, a non-partisan and non profit membership organization for white collar workers, argues such a position in a piece entitled, “The Economic Fallout Has Decimated the Black Middle Class.”
In it Ehreneich along with Dedrick Muhammad, a Senior Organizer and Research Associate of the Institute for Policy Studies claim that a seven-year long “black recession” occurred between 2000 and 2007.
They write: “For African Americans — and to a large extent, Latinos — the recession is over. It occurred between 2000 and 2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomes declined by 2.9 percent. During the seven-year long black recession, one third of black children lived in poverty and black unemployment — even among college graduates — consistently ran at about twice the level of white unemployment. That was the black recession. What's happening now is a depression.”
Each also point out that a studio by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy reveals that 33 percent of the black middle class was already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession.
Although the issue of whether or not the total alienation of the black middle class is on the horizon is debatable, a number of issues in its decline can be raised.
The first is easily what factors have helped excel the decline of the black middle class and black workers overall? In addition to issues related to race and class are sure to be raised, the influx of foreign workers has certainly contributed to loss of opportunities for black workers.
Reports like "Immigration and Black Americans: Assessing the Impact" from the Center of Immigration Studies highlight how many illegal works have undercut jobs typically available to native-born black workers.
Then there is the issue of the subprime mortgage crisis - which overwhelmingly hit black Americans - making it difficult for those even in white collar positions to keep their homes.
All of this has brought us to an unfortunate reality: 40 percent of African Americans will have experienced unemployment or underemployment by 2010 and child poverty will reach new highs.
The question now becomes what can be done to stale the decline of blacks Americans since the start of the decade?
President Obama has made clear that he plans to boost education in the black community, but when black college graduates are losing jobs more than their peers and there’s still racial disparity for higher paying jobs will a degree alone solve the unique problems facing the community?
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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.