Giving Compass' Take:

• African-American and Native-American boys end up in prison, unemployed or both at much higher rates than their white male counterparts. 

• The United States has a dark history of treating African-American and Native-American men poorly.  Do we see some remnants of our past racial barriers and discrimination play out in more subtle ways than they used to? 

• There are organizations that do recognize this problem and are actually working towards investing in African-American males specifically. 

The U.S. is facing a national crisis. It is virtually guaranteed that if you are poor, male, African-American or Native-American, you have a disproportionally high likelihood of ending up in prison, unemployed, or both. In a new paper by my colleague, Adam Looney, and his co-author, Nicholas Turner, intended to analyze post-incarceration employment, the authors find that:

“Almost one-third of all 30-year-old men who aren’t working are either in prison, in jail, or are former prisoners…Boys who grew up in families in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution were 20 times more likely to be in prison on a given day in their early 30s than children born in top ten percent of families…"

While these findings are consistent with other research that details the negative impact of childhood poverty on life outcomes, the paper is particularly eloquent about the impact that the combination of childhood poverty, segregation, and race have on African-American and Native-American boys.

How did we arrive here?  It is not accidental that the two demographic groups who have endured the most profound state-sanctioned segregation and deeply inculcated and brutal racism are the two groups today which have the poorest life outcomes.

First, the fact that the overwhelming majority of poor African-American boys live in segregated and concentrated poverty is the direct result of residential redlining and related governmental practices that emerged during the New Deal era.

Second, to be male, poor, and either African-American or Native-American is to confront, on a daily basis, a deeply held racism that exists in every social institution.  This experience is a direct result of centuries of vilification and pernicious narratives that portrayed African-Americans and Native-Americans as “savages.”

The fact that unemployment and incarceration rates are linked to race and childhood poverty, particularly for boys, clearly demands an intentional and focused policy solution.

Read the full article about poor African-American and Native-American boys by Camille Busette at Brookings.