As President Obama wraps up the final months of his second term as the nation’s first African-American president, many will begin to assess the progress the nation has made under his administration, and more specifically, the progress that Black America has made. In making these critical assessments, we must also consider which presidential candidate is best suited to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead for the United States.
Economic empowerment is the central theme of the National Urban League's mission. The Equality Index, based on data gathered by IHS Global Insight, is a way to document progress towards this mission. The Equality Index is composed of many parts, so improvements in one area are sometimes offset by losses in another, leaving the overall index unchanged. The Equality Index offers solid evidence of how slowly change happens and highlights the need for policies that fight inequality.
President Obama opened his January 2015 State of the Union address touting a lower unemployment rate than before the financial crisis, more children graduating than ever before and more people insured than ever before. While each of these milestones is reflected in the 2015 National Urban League Equality Index, it also tells a less popular, though all too familiar, story of persistent racial disparities in American life.
The 2014 Equality Index of Black America stands at 71.2 percent compared to a revised 2013 index of 71.0 percent. Relative to last year’s Equality Index, there was little change in 2014 because improvements in the civic engagement index, which is weighted at only ten percent of the over all index were offset by a loss of ground or no change in the other more heavily weighted areas:
Since 1963, blacks have experienced tremendous gains in school enrollment and educational attainment. Fifty years ago, only one-quarter of black adults had completed high school. Currently, only 15% of black adults are not high school completers. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more black 18–24 year olds enrolled in college than in 1963, and 5 times as many black adults1 hold a college degree now than in 1963.
The 2012 Equality Index of Black America stands at 71.5% compared to a revised 2011 index of 71.4%. Revisions to the previous year’s index are done for greater comparability across years and reflect data points that have been corrected, changed, removed from the current year’s index or reweighted so that less emphasis is placed on older data.