BLACK America, despite serious problems, has made dramatic
strides during the past few decades in education, income, health,
These are some of the major conclusions from an extensive study,
"African Americans in the 1990s," released Thursday by the
Population Reference Bureau Inc.
A few quick facts:
* The black middle class is booming. The number of affluent
African-American families with incomes over $50,000 rose from
266,000 in 1967 to over 1 million in 1989.
*-College-educated blacks have enjoyed rapidly rising incomes,
with young, college-educated black families now earning, on average,
93 percent of the incomes of comparable whites.
*-The number of blacks holding elected office climbed 47 percent
during the 1980s, from 4,900 to 7,200.
*-Infant mortality rates for black children have fallen to only
one-fourth the level they were in 1940, though there is still
substantial room for improvement.
William O'Hare, head of Population and Policy Research at the
Urban Research Institute, University of Louisville, was one of the
report's authors. He observes:
"It's a different ballgame than it was a generation ago. For
example, in 1940, 95 percent of all blacks were below the poverty
level. Even in 1950 or 1960, if blacks were not poor, they had been
raised in a poor family."
Today, there is still a large population of blacks in poverty,
but there is also "a large segment of blacks who are in the middle
class or who are wealthy," Dr. O'Hare says. "From the beginning,
these (middle class) people had good schools and other opportunities
that were not available to their ancestors."
However, the rise of the black middle class has created an
economic fault line, which separates the newly affluent from
millions of their black brethren who are still living in poverty.
This economic separation "could lead to fragmentation and
divisiveness" among blacks, O'Hare says.
The professor says this already seems apparent in black attitudes
toward Clarence Thomas, the black nominee to the United States
Supreme Court. Younger, affluent blacks widely support the
nomination, while older African Americans who grew up poor are
suspicious of Judge Thomas's conservative views.
Meanwhile, other changes taking place seem less sanguine for
blacks, according to this report, which was also written by Taynia
Mann and Kelvin Pollard, research demographers at the Population
Reference Bureau, and Mary Kent, editor of the bureau's quarterly
journal, "Population Bulletin." The PRB is a nonprofit educational
organization based in Washington, D. …