Saturday, November 21, 2009

Black-owned businesses in America: another way to measure economic inequality

Income inequality between Blacks and Whites in America is bad, but in itself offers an incomplete picture of the real economic inequality between the two races.

Median per capita Black income, circa 2008, was $34,218.
Median per capita White (non-Hispanic) income was $55,530.

This means that Blacks, on average, made about 62% what whites made.

As dismal as this income disparity is, however, it is not representative of the extent of economic inequality.

When we look at economic inequality in terms of business ownership, a more disturbing picture emerges.

In 2002 (according to the U.S. Census' Survey of Business Owners):

White Americans, though only 69.1 percent of the population, owned 86.6 percent of business firms. Black Americans, despite making up 12.8 percent of the American population, owned 5.2 percent of firms. White-owned firms accounted for 36.6 percent of the total sales and receipts in the American market (excluding publicly held and other unclassifiable firms), while Black-owned firms accounted for only 0.4 percent of total sales and receipts.

This means that Whites are over-represented as business owners (per their proportion of the population) by 25%, while Blacks are under-represented by nearly 60%.

One of the most startling numbers in this analysis, however, is this: the total sales and receipts of White-owned firms are nearly 100 times that of Black-owned firms.

Considering that Blacks make up nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population and Whites make up about 70 percent, if all was fair the total sales and receipts of Black-owned firms would account for about 6.8 percent. In other words, Black businesses are making less than 6 percent of what they should be, in a just and fair world.

Finally, Whites are three and a half times more likely to own businesses with paid employees than Blacks; three and a half times more likely to be boss. And since Blacks make up a disproportionate number of employees (considering the relative lack of business ownership), we can guess that Whites are probably far, far more likely to boss around Black folks than the other way around.

This pattern is perpetuated outside of business ownership as well, where Blacks and Whites compete for positions of authority in businesses they don't own. According to the 2002 Census CPS, the percent of Blacks in the workforce who were working as administrators or in executive and managerial occupations in March of 2002 was 9.9 percent, compared to 17.2 percent of Whites. In 2003, Blacks made up 18.7 percent of social and community service workers but only 11 percent of social and community service managers. Similarly, while Blacks made up 13.9 percent of production, transportation, and material moving workers, they accounted for only 5.9 percent of transportation, storage, and distribution managers. The trend here is that Blacks make up a disproportionately low number of managers even within industries in which they are represented disproportionately higher than other races.

No comments: