50 years after the March: Where are we today?

August 26th, 2013

On August 28, 2013, fifty years will have passed since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.   Over the next week, the Mississippi Economic Policy Center will use this blog and the anniversary of the March as a medium and take a moment to reflect on economic opportunity in Mississippi through the lens of racial equity.  The blogs that follow will share a series of statistics on issues MEPC has written about in the past.

As we commemorate the March, it is important to remember that one of the driving forces behind the March was to push for jobs – particularly for African Americans who had been systemically shut out of full participation in the economy.

The first post focuses on unemployment in Mississippi.

One characteristic of statewide unemployment statistics over the last few years is the fact that the white unemployment rate in Mississippi has been below the white unemployment rate of the country and that the black unemployment rate has been at or above the rate for the United States. 

Another way of looking at the unemployment statistics is by county.  The chart below provides a snapshot of the rates for African Americans and whites in Mississippi counties.

There are only four counties in the state in which the African American unemployment rate is below 12%.  In contrast, there are only five counties in the state in which the white unemployment rate is above 12%.  While disparities exist across the country by race, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports that the gap between white unemployment and black unemployment in Mississippi is among the widest in the nation.  EPI identifies race and differences in the ages of the workforces (the white workforce is older than the African American workforce), location and educational attainment as factors contributing to the gap.

The gap underscores the need to make deep investments in education at all levels and workforce development particularly for populations that are at risk.  Inherent in such a strategy is the importance of having adequate revenue systems to ensure that the state can invest in the types of things that create jobs such as education and health care.

-Ed Sivak, MEPC Director

2 Responses to “50 years after the March: Where are we today?”

  1. Lena Jones says:

    Timely subject; will follow blog with interest. However, there is one statement made in Ed’s enlightened discourse suggesting that the root of the economic disparity is education but one has to wonder when that gap has been steadily closing over the last 50 years and much faster than the poverty gap.

    This issue is very complex, but one of the least explored aspect of this has been differences in in/out migration and the implication this has when there is a braindrain affecting areas experiencing high unemployment whereby young people with promise are exiting and are not fully replaced by retired seniors via reverse migration from the north to the south. Although such seniors demand less in public services they also are exempt from most property taxes which support better schools. One of the policy implications relative to education is for MS to become one of the states that evenly funds schools and not overly rely on property taxes — otherwise people will always move to one area for better schools and another one post-retirement for lesser taxes.

  2. Ernestine Bilbrew says:

    This is a very startling report. The visual really has impact. Do you have any comparisons based on educational attainment as it relates to race?
    I trust that our policy makers are aware of this.
    Thanks for all you do

Leave a Reply