There has a lot of research in recent decades about the black middle class. Some new numbers suggest the black middle class has been hit harder by the economic crisis than the white middle class:
In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median net worth for black households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the institute.
Austin described the wealth gap this way: “In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.”
Austin thinks more black people than ever before could fall out of the middle class because the unemployment rate for college-educated blacks recently peaked and blacks are overrepresented in state and local government jobs. Those are jobs that are being eliminated because of massive budget shortfalls.
Since the end of the recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor. Last April, black male unemployment hit the highest rate since the government began keeping track in 1972. Only 56.9 percent of black men over 20 were working, compared with 68.1 percent of white men.
Even though more blacks may have joined the middle class in recent decades, this data suggests they are more vulnerable than their white counterparts. And, of course, this is all related to the still present large gap in wealth.
It would be interesting to see data on how the economic crisis has affected other minority groups.