The Only Poverty Down Since 1980 Is Black Poverty

Paul Ryan is blaming poverty on black culture. Earlier I wrote about how ridiculous that is. There are eight million more poor whites than there are poor blacks, and white poverty obviously cannot be explained by black culture. Since we started measuring poverty, black poverty has fallen much more (both in percent and in percentage points) than white poverty has. It's still much higher than white poverty because it started out much higher, but that's what apartheid combined with no effort to remedy its lingering effects will do to a people.

The reduction in black poverty is not just a story of a steep decline from 1959. Since 1980, the black poverty rate has fallen by 5.3 percentage points while the overall poverty rate has increased by 2 percentage points. The black poverty rate has fallen by 16.3 percent while the overall poverty rate has increased by 15.1 percent.

In fact, the black poverty rate is the only one that fell during this period. If the overall poverty rate had kept track with the black poverty rate since 1980, it would have looked like this:

The overall poverty rate in 2012 would have been 12.5 percent instead of 15 percent, and we would have had 7.5 million fewer impoverished people.

The racist rhetoric that places the blame for poverty trends on black culture is flatly contradicted by the historical trend. In the face of rising overall poverty, black poverty has actually been falling significantly. It fell significantly before 1980 as well. Paul Ryan could not have possibly concluded even with just a superficial glance at the facts that black culture was responsible for our growing poverty. He went into his project with that racist conclusion and, to no one's surprise, came out with it as well.

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