More than half of the black male high school dropouts in the U.S. are unemployed, according to a fascinating analysis by a news site called RemappingDebate.org.
The site uses U.S. Census data—the same data used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics—to create a vast snapshot of the unemployment story for hundreds of different configurations of the U.S. population. While the current 12-month average unemployment for black males between 16 and 25 without a high school diploma was 51.6 percent, the equivalent number for white males was 25.6 percent—half the number for black males.
For Hispanic males between 16 and 25 without a high school diploma, the unemployment rate was 23.3 percent—actually less than the rate for white males.
For females, the numbers are a little bit better: black female high school dropouts between 15 and 25 had an unemployment rate of 45.2 percent, compared to white female dropouts at 21.6 percent and Hispanic females at 28.8 percent.
By contrast, the unemployment rate for black male college graduates was 6.7 percent, while it was 5.9 percent for black female college graduates. For Hispanic male college graduates, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, while it was 5.8 percent for Hispanic female college graduates.
For white male college graduates, the rate was 3.6 percent, while the unemployment rate for white female college graduates was 3.8 percent.
Author and conservative commentator Thomas Sowell blamed the high black unemployment rate on the federal minimum wage law, saying it undermines companies that would employ blacks. Prior to the 1930’s, Sowell said, black unemployment was actually lower than white unemployment.
“What changed was the government intervention into the labor market,” Sowell said during an appearance on Fox News. “(The year) 1930 was the last year in which there was no federal minimum wage. They brought in the Davis Bacon Act.”
In his State of the Union, President Obama proposed that the federal minimum wage be increased from $7.25 to $9 an hour, while Senate Democrats have proposed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 to raise the minimum wage by almost three full dollars to $10.10 an hour.
Meanwhile, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton on his daily radio show presented a challenge to the black community, which he said spends too much time focused on entertainment and other trivia than on important issues affecting their lives, such as money, personal finances and voting.
“Anytime you have more people that know more about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West than their own kids there is something wrong with that,” Sharpton said. “I know many people who can give me more [info] about the latest on what they’re doing — about Kanye — than who their daughter is dating. That is sick.”
Sharpton wondered out loud if the community now uses entertainment as an escape.
“James Brown had a song called “Escapism,’” Sharpton noted. “Are we in escapism? And is it better to talk about Rosa Parks and Dr. King and back in the day,” instead of what we have to do now?