Monday, January 18, 2010

Free at Last? African American Poverty in Greater Los Angeles

"But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition."

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream" Speech, 1963

When Martin Luther King spoke these famous words, he was referring to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, in which Abraham Lincoln declared free the slaves of the rebel states. Now it is 147 years later and it makes sense to ask if we have achieved equality yet. We have a black President, but how are things for black people in greater Los Angeles?

This is a complex question that I will not answer in any adequate way here. I have two statistics from the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) on individuals in poverty (Table B17001). In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, there were about 12.7 million people for whom the ACS determines poverty status. Of those, about 1.7 million, or 14.0%, were in poverty. For this area's 888,000 African Americans, the poverty rate was 18.7%.

That's quite a disparity. Looks like there's still some work to do.

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