The United States economy has a troubling outlook for most Americans, but for young Black people, there are even fewer aspects of the economy about which to be optimistic. Obtaining and maintaining wealth, homeownership, and a life not burdened by crushing debt is difficult-to-impossible for young Black people in the current economic climate.
State of Black Youth in the U.S. Economy
It is hard to measure the extent of harm done to Black bodies, minds and souls as a result of systemic and longstanding economic violence, but we have to look at some of the numbers and ask why? The reality is grim.
Percentage of Young People Living in Poverty, 2003-2013
Black youth are bearing the burden of the current economic crisis and without a major change, the future is bleak. The unemployment rate for Black youth, like Black poverty and debt, far exceed our white counterparts. The burden of unemployment at these levels have a huge impact on our ability to survive, let alone thrive.
Unemployment Rates among 18 to 29 Year Olds, 2003-2013
Profiteering on Punishment
Alongside a booming prison population in the U.S. there are booming profits for corporations that create products and services for the criminal justice system.19 Increasingly, state governments have shifted the cost for these services directly to those being punished. Simply put, mass incarceration and the criminalization of young Black people has been nothing more than a massive payday for these kinds of corporations. The infographics below show the possible paths of people charged with different offenses and the points at which the privatized “corrections” industry profit (source: www.inthepublicinterest.org).
The undervaluation of Black women
Black women are affected by both the gender wage gap and the race wage gap, as they make up a disproportionate amount of low-wage workers and earn only about 67 cents for every dollar of what men earn. That means $33 less for women to spend on groceries, housing, and other expenses for every $100 of work that men do. The fact that there are far too many Black women who have to balance work and family life on poverty wages while being literally and figuratively undervalued in both spheres is a problem and injustice to say the least.
Economic marginalization of trans* people
The narratives and experiences of queer and trans* Black people provide some of the clearest examples of the effects of poverty. The impact of structural violence when it appears as economic injustice often compounds to keep many in a constant state of trauma and often has fatal consequences for transgender women. A national survey of transgender discrimination reported that Black trans* people report the highest levels of discrimination in trying to secure employment, affordable housing, healthcare, accurate identification, and opening lines of credit.
Impediments to Asset and Wealth Building in Black communities
Black wealth building has long been stifled by unfair mortgage agreements, lack of access to quality loans, and racist predatory lending practices. These practices have persisted for generations and. Today, for example, Black women pay the highest interest rates on mortgage loans. Taken together, our communities have experienced massive foreclosures, blight, and gentrification.