Washington, D.C. – African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately high rates of hunger and poverty compared to other Americans, according to a new analysis released today by Bread for the World. Unemployment and low wages, lack of access to healthy and affordable food, and higher incarceration rates are just a few of the factors that contribute to this problem.
“African-Americans continue to suffer from some of the highest rates of hunger and poverty in the U.S.,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations, Bread for the World. “Unemployment and the lack of good-paying jobs are primary causes. But we also have to look at issues like mass incarceration and access to healthier food options to get a complete picture of why this persists.”
African-Americans are more likely to be unemployed, and to hold low-wage jobs with few or no benefits. The median income for African-Americans in 2014 (latest data) was $35,398, which is $20,000 less than the median income for other households. Almost 50 percent of black children younger than 6 live in poverty.
Only 8 percent of them live in areas with a supermarket, and almost 94 percent of the nation’s majority African-American counties are food- insecure. Food-insecure means that a person or household does not have regular, reliable access to foods needed for good health. The lack of nutritious food causes serious medical conditions, including obesity and diabetes.
The problem is worsened by mass incarceration. African-Americans are more likely than others charged with similar offenses to be incarcerated. Soaring incarceration rates deplete family resources though court fees and lost work hours. Many states deny returning citizens access to such programs as SNAP, even while they look for work. For those who are lucky to land a job, their yearly earnings are reduced by as much as 40 percent.
“The best way to reduce hunger and poverty is with a good-paying job,” added Mitchell. “But we also need to support strong safety net programs, as well as policies that end mass incarceration and offer individuals returning home a second chance.”
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