News Briefs – Apr./May 2011

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Temporary Poverty
A U.S. Census Bureau report, “Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty, 2004–2006,” says poverty is not necessarily a permanent condition, noting that while 29 percent of the U.S. population was in poverty for at least two months between the start of 2004 and the end of 2006, only 3 percent were poor during the entire period. It says poverty can be a persistent condition: among the 33 million people who were poor at the start of the period (January and February 2004), 23 percent remained poor throughout the next 34 months. Many escaped poverty: 12 million, or 42 percent, who were poor in the 2004 calendar year were not in poverty in 2006. As some moved out of poverty, others moved into it: about 10 million (4 percent) who were not in poverty in 2004 slipped into poverty by 2006. More than half of those who did exit poverty continued to have income that was not significantly above the poverty level (less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold).

CVS Screenings
CVS/pharmacy’s 2011 “To Your Health” program teamed up with “The Makeover Mile,” a one-mile health walk led by medical and diet expert Ian Smith, M.D., to fight obesity, to offer free health screenings through June in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Participants in a Makeover Mile walk in these locations receive $150 worth of free screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, bone density (osteoporosis) and vision to help them determine their risk for chronic diseases. Doctor consultations, medication reviews with a CVS pharmacist, dental and chiropractic screenings, referrals for mammograms and Pap smears are available at the events.  Of those screened in 2010, 34 percent had high cholesterol; 38 percent had a high to moderate risk of developing osteoporosis; 37 percent had hypertension; and 29 percent had diabetes, with more than half being diagnosed with the disease for the first time.

Forty-One Years to Parity

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research says it will take until 2056 for women’s and men’s earnings to reach pay parity if the wage gap continues to close at the same pace it has for the past 50 years. Institute President Heidi Hartmann notes that women’s labor force participation has shot up and women are receiving college degrees and graduate degrees at faster rates than men, but the gender wage gap is improving very slowly. Overall, the ratio of women’s to men’s annual median earnings for full-time, year-round work remained flat at 77 percent in 2008 and 2009, after an all-time peak of 78 percent in 2007. In 1961, the gender wage gap was 59 percent, with dramatic improvements during the 1980s, from 60 percent in 1980 to 69 percent by 1989. Improvement since then has been slow.  
 
Voting Rights
The Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted to change its rules to require Floridians with past felony convictions to endure mandatory waiting periods of up to seven years before being eligible to apply to have their civil rights, including their right to vote, reinstated. The unanimously approved change — even though some board members publicly admitted they had not yet reviewed it — will potentially affect more than a million voters in Florida, a state with a history of voter disenfranchisement. The changes will delay even the application for reinstatement of rights for Floridians convicted of nonviolent, first-time offenses who were eligible for “automatic” restoration of rights under reforms approved by the board in 2007. In practice, however, “automatic” restoration still took months and sometimes years. Florida now returns to a small group of states that permanently bar people with past criminal convictions from voting for life unless they seek and receive individual pardons from the governor.

Hispanic Health

With the approach of the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, the National Hispanic Medical Association used its 15th Annual National Conference to take the lead on health-care reform implementation for Hispanic populations. The conference, held in March in Washington, D.C., brought together health-care professionals and experts from across the country to work with the association and the Obama administration on new health-care reform. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics, including Blacks who identify themselves as such, are now 50 million persons or 18 percent of the U.S. population, the largest ethnic group in the United States.  More than 30 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, which means the Hispanic population will gain the most from the U.S. Health Care Reform implementation.

Color Connections
A new company, Americans, Chinese,
& Africans Connecting (ACAC, www.achinaac.com), based in Rockville, Md., seeks to connect minority-owned firms in the United States, Colombia and Brazil, as well as firms in Africa, with firms in China. ACAC founder Sharon T. Freeman, Ph.D., says the new company will leverage its “Guanxi” (networks and contacts) in China to help firms in the targeted markets to identify and vet potential Chinese partners who may be in a position to provide products, services and investment capital. “It’s a competitive world and a globally connected one, thus ACAC’s goal is to help minorities increase their competitiveness through forming strategic alliances that can help them move up
to the next level of business,”
Freeman says.

Figuratively Speaking: Black Workers and Unions in 2010

Public officials in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and other states want to eliminate collective bargaining, or drastically change employee pension and access to affordable health insurance. Here’s a look at Black workers and union membership in the U.S.
Percent of wage and salary workers who were union members in 2010: 11.9 (14.7 million workers), down from 12.3 in 2009;
Median usual weekly earnings for union members: $917;
For nonunion members: $717;
Union membership rate in 1983: 20.1 percent (17.7 million workers);
Union membership rate for all public sector workers: 36.2 percent (7.6 million workers);
Union membership rate for local government workers (teachers, police officers, fire fighters, etc.): 42.3 percent;
Union membership rate for private sector workers: 6.9 percent (7.1 million workers);
State with the highest union membership: New York, at 24.2 percent;
State with the lowest rate: North Carolina, at 3.2 percent;
Percent of all Black workers who were union members: 13.4;
Percent of white workers: 11.7;
Percent of Asian workers: 10.9;
Percent of Hispanic workers: 10.0;
Percent of Black men alone: 14.8 (highest);
Percent of Asian men: 9.4 percent (lowest);
Percent of all 55- to 64-year-old workers: 15.7 (highest);
Percent of 16- to 24-year-old workers: 4.3 (lowest);
Percent more pay that unionized Black workers make over nonunionized counterparts: 30;
Percent by which unionized Black workers are more likely than nonunionized Black workers to have employer-provided health coverage: 16;
Percent by which they’re more likely to have pensions: 19 percent;
Among Black workers in the lowest-paying occupations, percent more earned by union members than non-union members: 14; 
National jobless rate for Blacks in 2010: 17.2 percent;
Black jobless rate in Wisconsin: 24 percent (white rate: 7 percent);
Percent of all U.S. public sector workers who are Black: 14.5 percent;
Percent of Black male workers with pension coverage: 44;
Percent of Black workers employed in public administration: +20;
Percent of Black women workers employed in public administration: 23.3;
Median wage for Black women in the public sector: $15.50/hour;
Median wage overall for the sector: $18.38/hour;
For white men in the sector: $21.24/hour.
 
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Center for Economic and Policy Research; University of California-Berkeley researcher Steven Pitts.