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Racial Disparity by the Numbers

By Rick Outzen

The lives of African-Americans in Escambia County are very different from those of their white counterparts. While local leaders like to talk about improving the quality of life of the city and county as they plan the course of this community for the next 25 years, that phrase—“quality of life”— has a very different meaning for black families who see themselves falling further behind.

The disparities in business, education, health and juvenile justice between blacks and whites are huge and have gotten worse over the past 10 years. Local leaders might as well be talking about space travel to the black community—unless they are willing to address the disparities.

African-Americans make up 23 percent of Escambia County’s population and 28 percent of the City of Pensacola, according to the 2010 U.S. census. A third of them live below the poverty rate, and their median household income is $22,787 less than white households—almost $7,000 worse than in 2000.

Only three out of every five black students graduate from the Escambia County public school system, while 83 percent of the white students graduate. Less than 40 percent of the black students read at or above their grade level. The percentage for their white classmates is 72 percent.

The rates for heart attacks, stroke and diabetes for blacks in Escambia County are much higher than the averages for blacks statewide and nationally. The fetal and infant death rates are also higher than those averages, and about three times higher than those for whites in Escambia County.

In addition, compared to the statewide averages, black youth in Escambia County are more likely to wind up in the criminal justice system. They are more likely to be detained, more likely to be committed and more likely to be tried as adults.

The City of Pensacola contracted last year to have a disparity study done to help serve as the legal basis for the city possibly restructuring its purchasing and contracting to include more minority-owned businesses and contractors. While that study will be in May, the IN wanted to do its own analysis of the disparities, looking beyond economics and city contracts.

The IN gathered the latest data available to give a fuller picture of disparities between the black and white communities. The paper believes that any revitalization of Escambia County and Pensacola will not be sustainable unless it revitalizes all aspects of this community.

The numbers are disturbing. They are intertwined and will require coordination of leadership, commitment and effort between the black and white communities to begin narrowing the gaps. The IN hopes that these statistics will become part of the local political dialogue during this year’s election cycle. Ignoring them or waiting for them to right themselves hasn’t worked.

 

Economic Profile

The UWF Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development helped the paper develop an economic profile. Poverty is pervasive in the black community. The poverty rate is three times higher. The employment rate and the percentage of individuals at the age of 25 and over without a high school diploma are more that twice as high than those for whites in Escambia County.

The gap in median household incomes between blacks and whites worsened during the last decade. For every one dollar a black household increased its income, a white family improved by three dollars.

 

American Community Survey 5-year Estimates White Black Difference
Median household income in the past 12 months
(in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) $49,279 $26,492 $(22,787)
Median household income  per 2000 Census $38,881 $22,846 $(16,035)
Improvement from 2000 to 2010 $10,398 $3,646
Poverty White Black Ratio
Individuals below the poverty rate 20,848 20,006
Poverty rate 10.7% 32.7% 3.06
High School Education White Black Ratio
Number of Individuals Age 25 and over without a High School Diploma 14,838 8,570
% of population 25 and over without a HS diploma 10.3% 22.6% 2.19
Home ownership White Black Ratio
Occupied housing units 84,911 22,341
Owner Occupied Housing (number of units) 60,867 11,934
% owner occupied 71.7% 53.4% 0.75
White Black Ratio
Unemployment rate 8.3% 17.9% 2.16
Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey

Health Profile

On July 27, 2006, the Comprehensive Assessment for Tracking Health 2005 study was released. The 600-page assessment reported that health problems in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are akin to those found in third-world countries and had gotten worse since the last study in 1995, especially among minorities and the poor.

On 430 specific health indicators, the poor health outcomes were more prevalent in areas where there are large numbers of minority and/or lower income residents.

The latest statistics from the Florida Department of Health show the health issues in the black community in Escambia are still worse than the state averages and in comparison with their white neighbors.

Many forego medical treatment that they can’t afford and ultimately seek care in emergency rooms. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are not managed appropriately and prescription medications are not taken as needed, causing conditions to worsen and become increasingly expensive to treat.

 

Median Age Both Sexes Male Female
White 41.3 39.3 43.5
Black 30.5 29.0 32.0
Source: 2010 Census Summary File 1 prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, 2011
 

Adults who have ever had a heart attack, angina or coronary disease

Escambia State
Black 23% 8%
White 10% 11%
Adults who ever had a stroke:
Escambia State
Black 10% 4%
White 3% 4%
Births to mothers ages 15-19
(2008-2010- rate per 1,000 births)
Escambia State
Black 78.4 57.2
White 32.8 31.2
Birth to unwed mothers ages 20-54
(2008-2010- rate per 1,000 births)
Escambia State
Black 76.6 66.0
White 33.2 37.2
Fetal deaths
(2008-2010- rate per 1,000 births)
Escambia State
Black 14.1 12.7
White 5.4 5.6
Infant deaths, first year
(2008-2010- rate per 1,000 births)
Escambia State
Black 16.5 12.6
White 6.8 5.1
Source: Florida CHARTS – Minority Health Profile, www.floridacharts.org

 

Education Profile

The demographics of the Escambia County public school system are changing, according to reports from the Florida Department of Education. Fifteen years ago, white students comprised 60 percent of the enrollment. Today, the percentage is slightly less than half. The percentage of black students has remained relatively flat.

However, the school system has few minority principals and has had a three percent decrease in black full-time instructional staff over the past three years.

The gap in education outcomes between the races is expansive and the percentages are below the state averages. Despite the school district receiving nearly $60 million in Title 1 funds to help economically-disadvantaged students, a smaller percentage of black students graduate. The percentages for reading and math proficiency are also significantly less than their white classmates and behind the state averages.

 

Graduation Rate, 2010 11
(per Average Yearly Progress reporting)
Escambia State
Overall 72% 78%
White 83% 85%
Black 58% 67%
Reading Proficiency
(per AYP)
Escambia State
Overall 59% 62%
White 72% 73%
Black 39% 44%
Math Proficiency
(per AYP)
Escambia State
Overall 62% 68%
White 74% 78%
Black 43% 51%
Full-time Instruction Staff
2008-2009 2011-2012 Persons
Total 2,974 3,203 229 7.7%
White 2,481 2,604 123 5.0%
Black 421 408 -13 -3.1%
Other 72 191 119 265.3%
Principals
(Escambia County Public School District)
Total White Black Other
Elementary 31 26 4 1
Middle 9 6 1 2
High 7 5 2 0
Other 3 2 1 0
Total 50 39 8 3
Percentage 78% 16% 6%
Student demographics 50% 35% 15%
Source: Florida Department of Education

 

Juvenile Justice Profile

Last year, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice released its Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Benchmark Reports that provided a systematic assessment of the juvenile justice system in Florida and within its 67 counties. The department looked at referrals to the justice system and how the cases were handled.

According to the report, African-American youth were increasingly overrepresented over the past decade, especially at the front-end stage—youth referred to the juvenile justice system.

In Escambia County, more than a third of the African-American population is less than 20-years-old, according to the latest census. When the DMC study was done in 2009, there were 31,092 youth in the Escambia County area between the ages of 10 and 17. Black youth comprised 30 percent of that total.

The referral rate for black youth in Escambia County was 3.7 times higher than the rate of white youth to be referred in FY 2009-10. This was a 9 percent increase from FY 2005-06 and 1.4 times higher than the statewide average of FY 2009-10.

In addition, compared to the statewide averages of FY 2009-10, black youth in Escambia County were more likely to be judicially disposed, more likely to be detained, more likely to be committed and more likely to be tried as adults.

 

Referrals – 2,814 youth locally
Escambia State
White 33% 39%
Black 64% 42%
Judicially Disposed: 2,195
Escambia State
White 31% 37%
Black 67% 46%
Detained: 1,049
Escambia State
White 28% 33%
Black 70% 49%
Committed: 343
Escambia State
White 24% 35%
Black 72% 51%
Transferred to Adult Court: 126
Escambia State
White 28% 27%
Black 70% 55%
Source: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

 

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The Independent News shared these statistics with African-American ministers and received the following comments:

Rev. Lonnie Wesley, III, pastor of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church: “I have seen the numbers and they are staggering. I believe this calls for a lot of self-evaluation; then we all must get involved to find the solution in order to initiate a change for the better of all of our children in this county. And we must do it now. Now is the time.”

Rev. Charles Morris, pastor of Bethel AME Church: “Though every citizen in our community will view these statistics as disturbing and embarrassing, our poor and underserved struggle with this stark reality every single day.

“It is interesting that when we direct tax dollars to the poor it’s labeled ‘welfare.’ Give those same tax dollars to corporations and it’s labeled a ‘necessary bailout.’ If you help the poor, it’s called ‘socialism.’ If you help the rich, it’s an ‘economic stimulus package.’

“Until we can address the issues with our failing school system, all the other dire statistics relating to economics, health and even criminal justice will remain unabated.

“These statistics bear witness to the great disparity of fairness in our community. A just society is always measured by how you treat the least, the lost, and the left-out! We cannot become the next great city until we can reason together as a community on what is just and right and fair.”

Rev. LuTimothy May, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church: “The statistical data indicates that to continue ignoring the daunting disparities that currently exist in Escambia county is an open acceptance to the dismal decay and decline of an entire community.”

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DISPARITY MEETING

The MGT of America, the consultant doing the disparity for the city of Pensacola, is holding a public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28 to receive public input from minority and women-owned businesses about their experiences with city purchasing and contracting.

When: 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28

Where: Council Chambers, Pensacola City Hall, 180 Governmental Center