The Disparity in Unemployment Rates Between African-Americans and Whites Remains Mostly Unchanged 50 Years Later

“America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds,’” Martin Luther King, Jr. said so eloquently at the March on Washington in 1963. “But we refuse to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt…We have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

Is that check still bouncing 50 years later?

Part of “I Have a Dream” was a cry for equal job opportunities for everyone, regardless of race. But decades later, the disparity between unemployment rates for African Americans and whites  doesn’t seem to have improved. Research by Robert W. Fairlie and William A. Sundstrom published in The American Economic Review [PDF] reveals the unemployment rate in 1960 was about 8% for black men and only 4% for white men:


Today, the unemployment rate for African Americans is still substantially higher than that of white people; at times it’s twice as high:


The graph is from an excellent CNN interview with civil rights activist Maya Wiley. “Despite the tremendous gains we’ve made,” Wiley says, “we haven’t completely finished cashing that check that Martin Luther King talked about — which means investing in the kind of opportunity that means we all get to feed our families.” The following graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down unemployment rates by race even further:


Clearly the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are just as important today as they were 50 years ago.

Found on CNN’s YouTube Channel.

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