In Louisiana, a Great Racial Divide

In the 2008 presidential election, whites in Louisiana voted for Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama by a margin of 84%-14%. Meanwhile, blacks voted for Obama over McCain by a margin of 94%-4%.

There is huge divide between blacks and whites in Louisiana. And it’s not just political.

A recent report titled A Portrait of LOUISIANA: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009 shows wide disparities in income, education, and life expectancy between blacks and whites in the state. The report is a product of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, Oxfam America, and the American Human Development Project, which did the research and wrote the report.

The findings of the report include:

• Median personal earnings for whites in Louisiana average $28,912, which is slightly above the national average. For African Americans, earnings are $17,010, comparable to U.S. median earnings in the mid- 1960s.

• Nearly one in three African American adults age 25 and over in Louisiana has not graduated from high school. (!!!)

• African Americans in Louisiana are less than half as likely to have completed college than their white counterparts.

• The average life span for African Americans in Louisiana today (72.2 years) is shorter than that of many developing nations, including Colombians, Vietnamese and Venezuela.

• The average life span of an African American in New Orleans is 69.3 years, nearly as low as life expectancy in North Korea, while the life expectancy for a white person is 79.6 years.

• Whites in Louisiana earning the least have wages and salaries on par with African Americans earning the most.

• Louisiana African American women have wages and salaries typical of those that prevailed in the U.S. in the 1950s.

• An African-American baby boy born today in Louisiana can expect to live 68.1 years, a life span shorter than that of the average American in 1960 and on par with that of men in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Jamaica today.

The economic disparity between blacks and whites in the state is illustrated by the following chart, which shows the percentage of Louisiana families that fall within various income groups.

State of Louisiana – Family Income of Whites and African Americans, 2007
In Louisiana, nearly 25 percent of white families percent have incomes of $100,000 or more, while about 7 percent have incomes below $15,000. The exact opposite is the case for African Americans.
Source: A Portrait Of Louisiana: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009

These racial inequities in economics, education, and health are mirrored in the political representation in Louisiana’s state legislature. Although African Americans are 31.9% of Louisiana’s population, only 18.1% of the members of the state legislature are black.

No other state has as big a gap between the percentage of African Americans in the state and in the legislature. These are the six states for which the state’s black population percentage most exceeds the legislature’s black percentage, causing blacks to be “under-represented” in the legislature:
Source: Factoid: Black State Legislators in 2009

These statistics paint a picture of a black population in Louisiana that is economically depressed, undereducated, relatively unhealthy, and underrepresented politically. And while the effects of hurricane Katrina are certainly a factor, there are doubtless a host of other issues and problems that are impeding black progress in the state.

Hopefully, the Portrait of LOUISIANA report will help to galvanize the people of the state, both black and white, to address the many issues they face.

2 thoughts on “In Louisiana, a Great Racial Divide

  1. Maybe be Blacks taking more responsibility and completing college instead of dropping out. Peer pressure and parentage has a lot to do with that. If you are responsible and work hard, there is no place like America to make it big and succeed in life!

    • Vicky,

      Your comment is 98% idealism and 2% realism. If only it was as easy as you frame it in your comment.

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