Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Study: US inequality persists 50 years after landmark report

Published:Wednesday | February 28, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this July 15, 1967, file photo, a National Guard officer passes the smashed window of a black-owned flower shop in riot-torn Newark, N.J., after a night of looting and violence.


Barriers to equality pose threats to democracy in the US as the country remains segregated along racial lines and child poverty worsens, according to study made public yesterday that examines the nation 50 years after the release of the landmark 1968 Kerner Report.

The new report blames US policymakers and elected officials, saying they're not doing enough to heed the warning on deepening poverty and inequality that was highlighted by the Kerner Commission five decades ago, and it lists areas where the country has seen "a lack of or reversal of progress."

"Racial and ethnic inequality is growing worse. We're resegregating our housing and schools again," former Democratic US Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, a co-editor of the new report and the last surviving member of the original Kerner Commission created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. "There are far more people who are poor now than was true 50 years ago. Inequality of income is worse."

The new study titled 'Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report' says the percentage of people living in deep poverty less than half of the federal poverty level has increased since 1975. About 46 per cent of people living in poverty in 2016 were classified as living in deep poverty 16 percentage points higher than in 1975.

And although there has been progress for Hispanic homeownership since the Kerner Commission issued its report, the homeownership gap has widened for African-Americans, the new study found. Three decades after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 passed, black homeownership rose by almost 6 percentage points. But those gains were wiped out from 2000 to 2015 when black homeownership fell 6 percentage points, the report said.

The report blames the black homeownership declines on the disproportionate effect that the subprime mortgage lending crisis had on African-American families.

In addition, gains to end school segregation were reversed because of a lack of court oversight and housing discrimination, the new report said.