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State of Black Oregon Reveals Stark DisparitiesSalem-News.com
75 percent of Oregon's black 10th graders did not meet benchmark standards for math in 2007-08.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Seven months after the inauguration of the first Black president, a statewide report on the condition of African Americans in Oregon reveals that black Oregonians remain at or near the bottom of every meaningful social and economic measure.
African Americans in Oregon have significantly higher infant mortality rates, are more likely to live in poverty, have higher levels of unemployment, are half as likely to own their own homes and are far more likely to die of diseases such as diabetes than their white counterparts.
The State of Black Oregon was published today by the Urban League of Portland for the first time in 17 years. The report contains a stark inventory of statistics that show a persistent gap in living standards between black and white Oregonians – a gap that is growing wider as a result of the current economic downturn.
"During the last eight years, the poverty gap in America and in this state has continued to grow," says Marcus C. Mundy, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland. "If there's a poverty gap for Americans generally, the African-American poverty gap widens to chasm proportions. This flies in the face of the ideals our country stands for, and simply should not be acceptable here in Oregon or anywhere else."
Among the reports findings:
• Median income of households headed by blacks in Oregon is less than two thirds that of white households – showing virtually no improvement since this study was last compiled in 1990.
• 38 percent of Oregon's African-American children live in households with incomes below the poverty level; and 60 percent live in households with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
• Black children born in Oregon are 50 percent more likely to suffer from low birth weight; and infant mortality in the state is 50 percent higher for children of black mothers.
• Drop out rate in Oregon high schools is about twice as high for African-American students, with drop-out rates approaching 7 percent for black students, vs. three percent for white students. Additionally, only 68 percent of black student graduate on time from Oregon high schools, compared to 85 percent of white students. Another alarming statistic: during the 2007-08 school year, black high school students were nearly twice as likely as white students to be expelled or suspended from Oregon schools.
• Although African Americans represent just seven percent of Portland's population, a disproportionate percentage of the city's homicide victims are black (45 percent compared to 35 percent of homicide victims that are white). Black Oregonians are also six times more likely to end up in jail than whites.
"This report is a wake up call to Oregon," concludes Mundy. "The statistics reflect a consistent trend over decades – a trend fueled by social and economic disparities that demonstrate a deeply-rooted, systemic disadvantage for its African-American citizens. Our hope is that this report can serve as call-to-action for addressing these disparities through policy proposals aimed at both the public and private sectors."
The report includes an action plan that calls for implementation of proven, effective tools to eliminate the state's gaps in income, wealth, health, social progress and educational attainment.
"Most importantly this is a ‘reality check' for those who may have thought that discrimination and disparity had been overcome. We still have much to do," said Mundy.
1. Additional findings include:
• The black male labor force participation rate is about 9 percent¬age points below proportionately that of white males.
• Black death rates by diabetes (73:100,000) are considerably higher for African Americans (73 per 100,000 vs. 29 per 100,000 for white Oregonians).
• 75 percent of Oregon's black 10th graders did not meet benchmark standards for math in 2007-08.
• African American borrowers were twice as likely to receive high cost, high interest loans as white borrowers – and more likely to have faced foreclosure in the current economic climate.
• Black children represent 7 percent of the children in foster care, although they are about 2% of the child population in the state. 2. The Urban League of Portland is one of the oldest civil rights and social service organizations in the state. Its mission is to empower African Americans and others to achieve equality in education, employment, economic security and quality of life. The State of Black Oregon is modeled on the National Urban League's annual State of Black America report.
3. The data collection was conducted by EcoNorthwest, the Northwest's largest economics consulting firm.
4. Contributors providing essays include: History - Dr. Darrell Millner, Professor, Department of Black Studies, Portland State University Economics - Sheila Holden, North/Northeast Economic Development Alliance; Dr. Karen Gibson, Associate Professor, Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University Education - Joyce Braden Harris, Co-chair, African American Alliance; Carolyn Leonard, Compliance Officer, Portland Public Schools; Dr. Algie Gatewood, President, Portland Community College, Cascade Campus Criminal Justice - Dr. Robert Thompson, Oregon State University, Department of Ethnic Studies Housing - Dr. Victor Merced, Director, Oregon Housing and Community Services; Maxine Fitzpatrick, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative (PCRI). Health - Tricia Tillman, Multnomah County Health Department Environmental Justice - Kevin Odell, Organizing People and Activating Leaders (OPAL); Jill Fuglister, Coalition for a Livable Future Child Welfare - Angela Cause and Kory Murphy, Oregon Department of Human Services Civic Engagement - Senator Avel Gordly, Associate Professor, Department of Black Studies, Portland State University
5. Funders: Oregon Community Foundation (Northwest Area Oregon Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation), Northwest Health Foundation (Kaiser Permanente Fund at the Northwest Health Foundation), Oregon Community Foundation, (Janette G. Drew Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation), and the City of Portland, Office of Neighborhood Involvement, Diversity and Civic Leadership Program. To learn more, visit ulpdx.org
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