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African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately high rates of hunger and poverty despite the growing economy, according to a new analysis released today by Bread for the World. The shortage of good, stable jobs and the impact of mass incarceration on the community continues to worsen the situation.
“As African-Americans, we still suffer from some of the highest rates of hunger and poverty in the country despite the growth of our country’s economy since 2008,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World. “The lack of jobs that pay fair wages is preventing people of color from moving out of poverty and the recession.”
The median income for African-Americans in 2013 (latest available data) was $24,864, significantly lower than the median for all Americans. Poverty affected nearly three out of ten African-Americans or nearly twice the average rate for the general population. The same rates hold in terms of their ability to feed their families.
The problem is worsened by the effects of mass incarceration; currently the United States holds the highest number of people in prison in the world. “Incarceration for non-violent criminal offenses aggravates the situation for black people in America since these laws, time and again, put people of color behind bars at a higher rate than white people for the same offense,” said Mitchell.
African-Americans constitute nearly half of the total 2.3 million prison population in the country. Once a person has a criminal record, the act of providing for one’s self and family becomes exponentially harder. 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 combat hunger and poverty in the African-American community is through jobs that pay fair wages, strong safety-net programs, and by ensuring laws are in place to protect people and not further marginalize them from society,” Mitchell added.
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