Barack Obama’s election was hailed by many as the beginning of a post-racial America in which Black people were going to experience new-found equality. This hope for a post-racial America has been dashed by the fact that recent statistics show that Black Americans have not actually improved in many areas of inequality but instead have stayed the same or gotten worse since Obama’s election.
One of the areas that has worsened is household income and wealth, and although it has fallen for all Americans, it has fallen significantly more for Black Americans under Obama’s watch. The latest figures from the Census Bureau show that from 2009 to 2012 white households median income fell by 3.6 percent while Black households median income fell by nearly three times that amount at 10.9 percent. It is not just income that has fell but also wealth. During the recession from 2007 to 2012, White families only lost 11 percent of their wealth while Black families lost a whopping 31 percent.
While unemployment rates have made a small improvement for Black people during Obama’s presidency, this is nearly negated by the fact that the under-employment rate has gotten 25 percent worse for Blacks under Obama. This has happened despite the fact that under-employment has improved for members of every other racial category. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 20 percent, or one in five, Black people is under-employed, meaning they have a job but it is insufficient in terms of the number of hours or being overqualified.
Another area where Obama has failed to improve is in guaranteeing loans to Black businesses. Obama’s record is actually worse than that of former President George W. Bush. According to The Wall Street Journal, the percentage of Small Business Administration loans received by Black businesses fell nearly 8 percent since Obama took office. Home loans have also decreased sharply causing the percentage of Blacks who own homes to hit an 18-year low under Obama’s watch.
Retirement savings and benefits for Black families have also taken a hit. The Urban Institute found that black families’ retirement accounts were reduced by 35 percent between 2007 and 2010 despite white families’ accounts increasing by nearly ten percent during the same time period. Black families have also taken a hit in the consumer debt arena during the Obama administration. Although student loans have been the only type of consumer debt that has continued to rise under his administration, Blacks are two times more likely than whites to carry student loan debt.
Clearly the election of a Black president was not a magic bullet to end the financial, employment and wealth discrepancies experienced by Black people. Only history will be able to judge whether or not Obama could have done more to help close the wealth and income gaps between white and Black Americans.