Magazine article National Urban League. The State of Black America

National Urban League 2005 Equality Index

Magazine article National Urban League. The State of Black America

National Urban League 2005 Equality Index

Article excerpt

The Equality Index is used to compare the conditions between whites and blacks in America using multiple variables. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States counted an African American as 3/5 of a person for purposes of taxation and state representation in Congress, and Index value of 0.60. Whites have been used as the control in this index, so an index number of less than one means that blacks are doing relatively worse than whites in that category. An index value of greater than one means that blacks are doing better than whites in that category. How much progress has been made in the United States in the last 217 years? The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, corrected the 3/5 injustice, but according to the Equality Index, by 2005, Black America's index value stands at 0.73, fractionally down in the third decimal place. In other words, materially unchanged from a year prior.

The Equality Index is a compilation of five sub-indices, Health, Education, Economics, Social Justice, and Civic Engagement. Each of these subcomponents has an index value of its own. The sections below summarize how each of the individual sub-indices was constructed, the data available, and the weights used. Global Insight, Inc. (GII) attempted to use the most recent data available across these 5 indices to create the most current index value. Additionally, GE attempted to anticipate media criticism of our methodology and the data used primarily by employing weighting schemes to manage shortcoming in the data. Index weights are represented within the text as either a percentage of the sub-index: "Life expectancy is weighted at 15 percent," or a shorthand percentage follows the description of the data: "Live births per 1000 women was given the greatest value (0.05) in the micro-index of delivery issues." In all cases, the percentage is referring to the percent of the sub index-Health in this example-being discussed. When referring to the entire Equality Index itself, the text will directly mention this. "The Education sub-index comprises 25 percent of the Equality Index."

The weights are unchanged from last year:

Economics 30%

Health 25%

Education 25%

Social Justice 10%

Civic Engagement 10%


The Economics sub-index is divided into five separate categories: Mean Income, Employment Issues, Poverty, Housing and Wealth Formation, and Digital Divide. The weight of each category is based on relative importance and the quality of the data that was available. Of the five, Housing and Wealth Formation was given the strongest weight (34%), as it is the best measure of both a person's current assets and their economic potential. For example, it is easier to secure a business loan if one owns a home and can use it as collateral, thus housing can directly contribute to wealth formation. Median Income, which is assigned the second highest weight (30%), represents the current economic performance of the white and black employed populations. Employment Issues was given a slightly lower weight (20%), followed closely by Poverty (15%). The Digital Divide was given a low weight of (1%). Although this is an interesting area of study, it currently has only an ancillary impact on wages and standard of living. The Equality Index number for Economics in 2005 was calculated at 0.57, a marginal increase over the 0.56 index number for the previous year.

This low index number means blacks are performing disproportionately worse than whites in the economic criteria, A closer look at the subindices that make up the Economics index will reveal the reasons for the low index number.

Median Income-30% of Economics

The index for Median Income is broken out into three components: Mean Male Earnings by Highest Degree Earned (10%), Mean Female Earnings by Highest Degree Earned (10%), and Median Income (10%). Mean Male Earnings produced an index value of 0. …

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