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The 38th edition of the State of Black America®– One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America – underscores a reality the National Urban League knows all too well – that the major impediments to equality, empowerment and mobility are jobs, access to a living wage and wealth parity. Amidst the discourse and debate about income inequality and other economic news-of-the-day, One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild Americaunderscores the urgency of the jobs crisis—both un-and-under-employment—and  how African Americans and other communities of color can recover from the losses of the Great Recession and forge a path to economic stability and upward mobility.

As the National Urban League continues to press the case for closing the growing divide in economic opportunity, the State of Black America presents the Equality Index™, an important tool for tracking racial equality in America, now in its tenth edition of the Black-White Index and its fifth edition of the Hispanic-White Index.

This year’s Equality Index includes these NEW FEATURES

  • Rankings of metro areasbased on unemployment and income equality for Blacks (77 cities ranked) and Hispanics (83 cities ranked).
  • 26 featured metro areas with large African American and/or Hispanic populations, complete withlocal areaindex values for 21 key indicators of economic, education, health and social justice.
  • Commentaries from the mayors of four of these featured metros– Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in Baltimore, MD; Michael Hancock in Denver, CO; Alvin Brown in Jacksonville, FL; and AC Wharton in Memphis, TN – focused on specific initiatives they are implementing to drive job creation and help narrow the divide between the haves and have-nots.
As always, this year’s State of Black Americabrings together an outstanding collection of essays by business leaders, elected officials, celebrated artists, champions in the civil rights struggle and leaders in the Urban League Movement.  Following are excerpts from a few of this year’s essay collection:  
President & CEO of the National Urban League, Marc H. Morial, on the “Great Divide:

“Through its straight-talk, insightful essays from leading voices and the revealing Equality Index, our 2014 publication looks at the great divide nationally—and for the first time city-by-city—between the few who are reaping the rewards of economic recovery and the majority who are still reeling from the aftershocks of the Great Recession.  While ‘too big to fail’ corporations went into the bail-out emergency room and recovered to break earnings and stock market records, most Americans have been left in ICU with multiple diagnoses of unemployment, underemployment, home losses and foreclosures, low or no savings and retirement accounts, credit denials, cuts in education and school funding—and the list of maladies continues.”

President and CEO of XEROX, Ursula Burnson how her life story fuels her passion to promote STEM education for minorities and girls:

“If I didn’t have the mother I had, if she hadn’t sacrificed to send me to the right school and if Xerox hadn’t taken an interest in me, there is no way this poor Black girl from the projects would have ever become a mechanical engineer.  Multiply that by the thousands of young women and people of color who have the innate talent to become an engineer or scientist, but lack the motivation and help. . .think of all the talent that could be harnessed to keep our nation on the leading edge of innovation and technology.


Why does this matter? Because the number of jobs in the U.S. economy that require science, engineering, math and innovation is growing and the number of people prepared to fill these jobs is shrinking.”

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn,on the need to expand broadband adoption and access:

“Although African Americans have the perennial distinction of being among the heaviest consumers of mobile, internet and social media services, we are woefully underrepresented when it comes to employment throughout the communications and technology industries, especially at the upper ranks.  Likewise, our communities have a high level of need and demand for broadband services, yet huge gaps remain between the dollars invested in comparison with the general market.  Not insignificantly, there are far too few partnerships between African American enterprises and entrepreneurs and major industry providers.  . .Whether it is broadcast, cable, satellite, online, software, wireless or any other major communications or technology platform, we have much to do to bridge the divide between aspiration and implementation.”

President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill,on the implications of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on voting rights:

“The Shelby decision is without question, devastating. It leaves voters of color unprotected from discriminatory voting measures in jurisdictions throughout the South (and other places of our country) where voting discrimination has been persistent and ongoing. Without the preclearance requirements of Section 5, jurisdictions are now free to adopt discriminatory voting practices.  The burden rests with voters—the victims of racial discrimination—and civil rights lawyers to file claims and challenge those practices in court.”

Internationally-acclaimed musician and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis,on the importance of turning STEM education into STEAM through the inclusion of the Arts in education:

“Though beset with an abundance of social and cultural ills that distort the national personality, we never consider investing in the very thing designed to call us home, our homegrown Arts.  Much like the 14th Century European victims of the Bubonic Plague who looked everywhere for a cure, in the last 50 years, we’ve looked everywhere to correct our education system except the most obvious place – our way of life. . . When will it occur to us that there is much in American culture that teaches, unifies and heals us? When will we realize that ultimately, the Arts as representative of cultural solutions have provided a time-tested blueprint of how to face the ever-changing world with class, creativity, confidence, integrity and competence? . . .The answer is not more education, but more substantive and more culturally-rooted education.”

Economist Thomas Shapiro, Ph.D, professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Brandeis University and the author of “The Hidden Cost of Being African American,” on the reasons behind the growing wealth gap between Blacks and whites:

“In gross terms, the difference in median wealth between America’s white and African-American households has grown stunningly large.  The wealth gap almost tripled from 1984 to 2009, increasing from $85,000 to $236,500.  The median net worth of white households in the study grew to $265,000 over the 25-year period compared with just $28,500 for the Black households
The dramatic increase in the racial wealth gap materialized and accelerated despite the country’s movement beyond the Civil Rights era into a period of legal equality.  We statistically validated five ‘fundamental factors that together account for two-thirds of the proportional increase in the racial wealth gap.  These include the number of years of home ownership; average family income; employment stability, particularly through the Great Recession; college education, and family financial support and inheritance.” 

Additionally, the State of Black America will again showcase Urban League initiatives in action through a collection of Affiliate Highlights with success stories from signature programs in job training, educational enrichment and entrepreneurship.

Vanessa Allen,  M.D., Ph.D.
Margarita “Maggie” Anderson
Donna Jones Baker
Ursula Burns
The Honorable Alvin Brown
Lindsay D. Brown
The Honorable Donna Christensen
The Honorable Mignon L. Clyburn
The Honorable Michael B. Hancock
Chanelle P. Hardy, Esq.
Hill Harper
Wade Henderson, Esq.
Rufina Hernandez
The Honorable Ruben Hinojosa
The Honorable Michael Honda
Tanya Clay House, Esq.
Sherrilyn Ifill, Esq.
Michael Lomax, Ph.D.
Tanya Lombard, Esq.
Wynton Marsalis
Erika McConduit-Diggs, Esq.
Marc H. Morial
Randall Pinkett, Ph.D.
The Honorable Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Jonathan C. Ray
Jeffrey Robinson
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Thomas Shapiro, Ph.D.
J.  Marshall Shepherd, Ph.D.
The Honorable Jabar Shumate
Joseph A. Slash
Elnora Watson
The Honorable AC Wharton
Valerie Rawlston Wilson, Ph. D.