MLK and the Facts of Racial Economic Injustice Today

January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to the struggle for racial equality. The vast racial economic divide remains a fact of American life more than forty years after his assassination. 

Unemployment Rates:
White 7.5%, Black 15.8%, Latino 11.0%
Ratio to White: Black 2.1 to 1, Latino 1.5 to 1

Median Family Income (2010):
White $70,000, Black $40,000, Latino $40,000
Ratio to White: Black 57¢ per dollar, Latino 57¢ per dollar 

Poverty Rates (2010):
White 9.5%, Black 25.7%, Latino 25.4%
Ratio to White: Black 2.7 to 1, Latino 2.7 to1

Education - Adults with College Degrees (Bachelor’s or Higher) (2010):
White 33.2%, Black 20.0%, Latino 13.9%
Ratio to White: Black 60% as likely to have a bachelor’s degree, Latino 42% as likely to have a bachelor’s degree 

Incarceration Rates (2009):
White 0.39%, Black 2.39%, Latino 0.97% of the population is in prison
Ratio to White: Black 6.1 times more likely to be in prison, Latino 1.5 times more likely to be in prison.

Average Family Net Wealth (2007) Near the Height of the Housing Bubble:
White $675,000, Black $134,000, Latino $185,000
Ratio to White: Black 20¢ per dollar, Latino 27¢ per dollar

Dr. King described the civil rights victories of the 1960s as having achieved “a degree of decency, not of equality.” Racial economic equality remains a disturbingly elusive and distant dream. In wealth and incarceration, the Black White divide has worsened in the last thirty years. The economic situation for the average Latino family has deteriorated overall relative to Whites since 1980.

Read our 2012 State of the Dream report, The Emerging Majority, for more details on how we got here and where we are headed. In the report, we look thirty years ahead to 2042 when the Census Bureau projects that people of color will become a majority of the population. We examine the trends in racial ineqaulity over the last thirty years, since the election of Ronald Reagain in 1980, and project those trends thirty years forward to 2042. 

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