Social and Health Conditions of the Black/African-American Population: The Setting for Children and Adults with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The Numbers

In 2005 there were almost 40 million black/African-American residents of the United States (13.4 percent of the total U.S. population, ranging from 0.4 percent of the population of Idaho, to 36 percent of the population of Mississippi, and 57 percent of the population of the District of Columbia), with more than one million black residents in 18 states. (All information in this report are for individuals who identify themselves as members of a single race.)

The 2000 Census reported that more than 7 million black residents five years and older (almost 24 percent of black persons, compared to 19 percent of the total population) had one or more disabilities. Black and Native American residents share the highest overall estimated disability rate. Almost 3 million black families (36 percent of black families, compared to 29 percent of all U.S. families) have a member with a disability. These numbers include 1.1 million black children less than 15 years of age with one or more disabilities (400,000 with a severe disability). Based upon data from the 2000 Census, among black children between 5 and 17 years, more than:

* 90,000 had severe hearing or vision impairment.

* 117,000 had conditions that limited their basic activities.

* 405,000 had difficulty learning, remembering or concentrating.

* 97,000 had difficulty dressing, bathing or getting around inside the house.

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"In most states, African American children are identified at one and a half to four times the rate of white children in the disability categories of mental retardation and emotional disturbance."

--from The Civil Rights Project. Racial inequity in special education.

But what of the conditions in which these black youngsters with disabilities are being raised, and what is the impact as they reach adulthood?

The Setting

The family: As with any population grouping, there is no specific "average" black family, no "average" economic standard, no particular "average" community setting, no single "average" employed status, and no "average" child with a disability living in this theoretical setting. A review of overall population data, however, does provide a composite general setting in which many youngsters with disabilities are being raised. For example, there are many differences in family living arrangements and birth rates between black and white families.

* 47 percent of married couple black families, compared to 82 percent of white families, have a spouse present.

* 59 percent of black families with children, compare to 23 percent white families with children, are one-parent arrangements.

* Despite marked decreases in teenager birth rates, black teenager (15-17 years) birth rates are double the rate of white teenagers (38/1,000 vs. 19/1,000 female teenagers).

* Births to unmarried women represent 68 percent of all births to black women, compared to 29 percent to white women.

* The unemployment rate of young black adults is more than twice the rate of young white adults (>10 percent vs. <5 percent).

There are any number of other similarities and differences between family populations, including:

* 38 percent of black children (0-5 years of age), compared to 55 percent of white children, are read to every day. A smaller percent of children in single parent families are read to everyday.

* 28 percent of black children, compared to 33 percent of white children, reside in households with a smoker.

* 64 percent of black children, compared to 54 percent of white children, attend religious services weekly.

Economics: Black households had the lowest median income in 2005 (almost $30,000) among all race groups. The median income for non-Hispanic, white households was almost $51,000. One-quarter of black residents (about the same rate as Native Americans) have incomes below the poverty level, compared to approximately 12 percent of the national population and about 8 percent for non-Hispanic whites. …