New Urban League report evaluates conditions
An updated report by the Urban League of Portland shows that the economic and social conditions of African Americans in Oregon have deteriorated since the civil rights group released a comprehensive report on the topic a year ago.
The original investigation, titled “The State of Black Oregon,” revealed that members of the state’s African American population was at the bottom of nearly every meaningful social category, facing higher unemployment and more problems accessing quality housing, healthcare, and education than their white counterparts. Additionally, it also showed that blacks were overrepresented in the adult prison, juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
The updated report shows that the recession has taken a particularly high toll on African Americans in Oregon. Between 2008 and 2009, unemployment for white Oregonians rose from 6.2 percent to 11.1 percent. But for the state’s African Americans, that number shot up from 11.1 percent to 15.2 percent during the same period.
African Americans in the state also suffered the highest percentage of foreclosures, closely followed by Latinos, due to sub-prime lending practices. The new figures also showed that the drop-out rate has improved for every demographic student group except for blacks in Oregon, whose dropout rate remains stuck at 7 percent.
Marcus Mundy, the president of the Urban League of Portland, called on local governments to collect more racial and demographic data and set solid disparity reduction targets. He said that the most recent report for his organization shows that the response to his initial report has been inadequate.
“The current economy continues to fuel widening socioeconomic disparities amongst black Oregonians,” Mundy said. “Our opportunity now lies in ensuring that emerging jobs, health, education and related policy is equitable for all Oregonians. Our data shows that without setting targeted goals, disparities will persist and in many cases, worsen.”
The Urban League is proposing that the City of Portland, Metro, and the Oregon Department of Transportation, and other government entities overseeing new economic development initiatives, particularly projects funded by the federal stimulus, to devote a percentage of each project’s workforce to lifting up groups disproportionately affected by unemployment.
The league is also calling for the creation of a city-wide task force to look into the social and economic woes, and for Portland Public Schools and health facilities to devote more resources toward improving the condition of African Americans.
On the legislative side, the league is calling for lawmakers to preserve and expand the earned-income tax credit and Temporary Assistance to Needy
Families, in addition to enacting legislation that will require an analysis of the racial impacts of any change in sentencing policy.