Tapping the Economic Potential of African American Men

Are African American males our greatest untapped resource?

The answer is yes, according to a study by Policy Bridge, Cleveland-based, minority-focused think tank.


“No single resource in Northeast Ohio is as underutilized as African-American males,” reports the agency in its study, Untapped Potential, African-American Males in Northeast Ohio.

• In Cleveland, roughly 65 percent of all males living in poverty are

• Roughly a third of African-American men in Northeast Ohio cities never completed high school.

• African-American men are unemployed at twice the rate of the total male
population in nearly every Northeast Ohio county and remain so for
longer periods.

“The loss of African-American male potential is, in fact, a loss of income
that is crippling the regional and state economies,” study authors report.

I never thought of the situation this way, but this is a very interesting argument.

Do the math. In 2003, workers who did not complete high school earned less than $21,000 a year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Are high drop-out rates and discriminatory hiring practices ensuring a future of poverty in Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown?

What about Detroit? Gary? St. Louis?

What can be done to reverse course?

Policy Bridge has these recommendations:

“By investing in better educating, fully employing, and fairly compensating the African-American male population, the area is investing in its own well-being. The return on investment will come in the form of increased consumer buying power, increased income and property taxes, increased civic engagement, and renewed economic growth.

“Before this reward can be realized, however, the community must undergo a
change in viewpoint: The African-American male population must no longer be seen as a potential drain on community resources, but as an untapped well of economic potential and a key ingredient to Northeast Ohio’s economic recovery.”



Filed under Education, Featured, Race Relations

5 responses to “Tapping the Economic Potential of African American Men

  1. I won’t make many freinds by saying this but “compensating them more fairly”, would often rationally mean dropping the minimum wage barrier.

    “Fair” to any employer not getting taxpayer bailouts and relying on profits from sales means a person’s wage is in relation to their “output” as an employee. If one third of these kids dropped out of school and many others are poorly educated this will likely affect what they can do.

    The earlier, issue of wider corruption in and the failure to provide safe streets and business districts also ultimately has to affect wages.Poor business climates high taxes and insecure property rights have to be paid for somehow.

    The American dream of starting out smart but unskilled in “the mail room” has been cut off at the knees.

    So instead of being “exploited” at starter jobs kids now have to go into 50-100,000 in college debt to get on the ground floor. Funny that is never described as exploitive?

  2. Standard

    I wouldn’t say it’s black men that have the potential but black women. According to Department of Education statistics cited by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, black women earn 67% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to blacks, as well as 71% of all master’s degrees and 65% of all doctoral degrees. The vast majority of African American households are headed by black women, not black men. Black women are also the vast majority of those supporting the black church both monetarily and through membership. My guess is that black women are coming up fast and they are a largely untapped source of community leadership for northeast Ohio.

  3. Pingback: The Urbanophile » Blog Archive » Midwest Miscellany

  4. Shaheen

    That was really more of an opinion piece than a study, considering none of the data was original. However, the opinions were interesting.

    Standard has a good point. I wonder why the author of the report never explained why he chose to focus soley on African American males and completely leave out females.

    Although, if he had, I would guess that he would say that people don’t have the same biases against black females that they have against males. And, as Standard described, black females seem to be finding opportunities for education and financial success at a higher rate. But it would have made sense for the report to explain why that might be.

    • schmange

      I have been thinking about the difference between African American men and women.

      I don’t know if there’s any truth to this but maybe the difference is public assistance. Public assistance, be it housing, nutritional or social services, is overwhelmingly funneled to women with children. Perhaps, many black women have been able to leverage this support to pull themselves out of poverty the way many white immigrants did with the GI Bill.

      On the other hand, black men are not so much subject to assistance as to imprisonment. It stands to argue that that is having the opposite effect.

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