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Friday, July 29, 2011

African-American Middle Class Eroding As Unemployment Rate Soars

The unemployment situation across America is bad, no doubt. But for African-Americans in some cities, this is not the great recession. It’s the Great Depression.

Take Charlotte, N.C., for example. It is a jewel of the “new South.” The largest financial center outside of New York City, it's the showcase for next year’s Democratic National Convention. It was a land of hope and opportunity for many blacks with a four-year college degree or higher.

According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, in Charlotte, N.C., the unemployment rate for African-Americans is 19.2 percent. If you add in people who have given up looking for jobs, that number exceeds 20 percent, which, according to economists Algernon Austin and William Darity, has effectively mired blacks in a depression.

“You’re looking at a community that is economically depressed in my opinion,” Austin said. “And we need action that will address that scale of joblessness.”

Vanessa Parker worked hard to get ahead. She was an administrative assistant at IBM in Charlotte. She went to night school to better herself, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Parker and her husband saved up enough money to move from a bad neighborhood to a quiet, middle-class street. But instead of moving up in the company, IBM moved out. Now she works at a big-box store for minimum wage.

“It’s very frustrating and it makes you wonder why are you doing it,” she told me. “Because it seems like the more that you try to get ahead, seems like you’re falling back.” (more)