The Case for Black Optimism

Good News

After covering the major problems facing Black America, Coleman Hughes writes:

Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic. From 2001 to 2017, the incarceration rate for black men declined by 34 percent. Even this statistic, however, understates progress by lumping black Americans of all ages together. When you look at age-specific incarceration outcomes, you find two opposing trends: Older black Americans are doing slightly worse than previous generations, but younger black Americans are doing better—so much better that they more than offset, in statistical terms, the backslide of their elders. To put the speed and size of the trend in perspective, between my first day of Kindergarten in 2001 and my first legal drink in 2017, the incarceration rate for black men aged 25–29, 20–24, and 18–19 declined, respectively, by 56 percent, 60 percent, and 72 percent. For young black women, the story is similar: a 59 percent drop for those aged 25–29, a 43 percent drop for those aged 20–24, and a 69 percent drop for those aged 18–19.

As a result of the divergent generational trendlines, the black prison population is not only shrinking; it’s aging too. In 2017, nearly three in ten black male prisoners were 45 years of age or older, up from one in ten in 2001. That may not seem like good news, but it is. The incarceration trendline for young blacks in the recent past predicts the trendline for all blacks in the near future. So the fact that the post-2001 incarceration decline for blacks in general was entirely caused by the plunging incarceration rate for young blacks in particular suggests that, as generational turnover occurs, the black prison population will not only continue to shrink, but will shrink at an accelerating rate. To paraphrase the economist Rick Nevin, our prison system may be overflowing today, but the “pipeline” to prison is already starting to run dry.

The great incarceration decline for black youth has been matched by a decline in teenage motherhood. Between 2001 and 2017, the birth rate for black women aged 15–19 declined by 63 percent. In fact, the black teenage birth rate in 2017 was lower than the white teenage rate as recently as 2002.

Nor has progress been confined to the younger generation. Between 1999 and 2015, the mortality rate for black Americans aged 65 and over shrank by 29 percent for cancer, 31 percent for diabetes, and 43 percent for heart disease. What’s more, all of those percentage drops were larger than the drops experienced by comparable whites over the same period. As deaths from disease have plummeted, black lives have extended. In 2017, black female life expectancy was 78.5 years, up from 75.1 years in 2000. Life expectancy for black men increased from 68.2 to 71.9 years over the same timespan.

Not only are black Americans healthier and longer-lived than they were two decades ago, they’re also more educated. Between the 1999–2000 and 2016–2017 school years, the number of black students who earned bachelor’s degrees increased by 82 percent, from 108,018 to 196,300. Over the same period, the number of associate’s and master’s degrees awarded to black students more than doubled, rising from 60,208 to 129,874, and 36,606 to 89,577, respectively (population growth accounts for some, but not all or even most, of this growth). 2018 census data showed that 37 percent of black Americans aged 25–34 had some kind of college degree. If black America were its own country, that would place it in between Germany (31 percent) and Spain (43 percent) in terms of educational attainment. What’s more, the economist Raj Chetty has found that black women, though less likely to attend college than white women, are now more likely to attend college than white men from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

Along with more education has come more upward mobility. The Federal Reserve recently reported that over 60 percent of blacks at every level of educational attainment say they’re doing better financially than their parents—a higher percentage than either whites or Hispanics. And although black men still lag behind white men in terms of upward mobility, Chetty has found that black women now go on to earn slightly higher incomes than white women from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

All told, there is more than enough data with which to tell an optimistic story about the recent history of black America. However, the same data that justify this optimism can appear to justify pessimism if you look at it differently. Recall, for instance, the 72 percent drop in the incarceration rate for black men aged 18–19 from 2001 to 2017. Framed as such, it looks like progress. But here’s the same data framed differently: In 2001, black men aged 18–19 were nine times more likely to be behind bars than comparable white men. By 2017, they were twelve times more likely to be behind bars. Framed as such, it looks like regress.

This particular framing effect is just one example in a larger pattern: The evidence against racial progress tends to compare black-white gaps today to black-white gaps in the past. Here, white metrics are used as benchmarks against which to measure black progress. By contrast, the evidence in favor of progress tends to compare black metrics today against black metrics in the past. White metrics do not enter the equation. Crucially, the same data can often be made to look like either progress or regress depending on which framework is chosen.

Coleman Hughes, in The Case for Black Optimism

I tend to agree with the idea of general improvement in Black America, not only because of my post-millennial assumptions, but more technology leads to both more choices (a decent definition of wealth) and more ways to generate wealth.

AND the cost of technology continues to fall!

A Warning

As Black America gets more wealthier, the temptations of wealth begin to replace the temptations of poverty. While the wickedness of depraved poverty are obvious and brutal, it’s the evils of corrupt wealth that bring down entire civilizations.

Satan is as happy to dig the grave of Black America, as he has for White America, all the while weaving flattering and pleasing, well-tailored lies. Indeed, I can hear the shoveling now.

Beware!

Hew closer to the Lord God and His Commandments, and drive out the evils the cling to you, if you want your success to be more than just a flash in a pan Black America!

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