The median is the halfway point statistically in a measurement where 50% are above and 50% are below. For example, there is the median income for African-American men in a given area. The median household income in Milwaukee County was just above $43,000 according to the most recent US Census. That means I would have needed a working wife to reach that threshold. Raising children can easily put one into poverty so if we had been raising 2 or more children we would have been struggling to put food on the table. If you dig deeper into the statistics and look at the median income of Milwaukee, it was only $35,851 during that same time period. People in suburbs, like Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Greenfield tend to earn more money than those of us who are in Milwaukee. As a result it would have been easier to reach the median. But what about the issue of a racial divide?
A document from the Social Development Commission, an anti-poverty agency stemming from the 1960s, showed the economic divide in Milwaukee. Black incomes in Milwaukee County are only 61% of the median household income. That is $27,468, far below $36,032 for Hispanics and barely half of that for whites at $52,950. How does this apply to me? In my second year as a certified peer specialist I am barely under the median income for Milwaukee residents and nowhere near the income level for whites.
If I had been able to remain a librarian, I would have been above the median income and perhaps closer to the income level for whites. Poverty is taking huge bites out of our community. I live in an apartment building where I am one of the few employed males. In fact I have been continuously employed for many years despite experiencing under-employment. I think about what it will take to break the yoke of poverty, imprisonment and mental illness that is strangling us.
For me, it took education, being willing to enter a completely new field, many years of hard work and being recognized by other African-Americans. I think that the same will hold true for many of us. As it happens, I am keeping pace economically with a lot of African-Americans in Milwaukee. However, unless I earn income from outside of wages, or change professions once more, it is unlikely that I will be able to make up for that nearly $20,000 income gap.
Why is this important? For a lot of reasons that weren’t important to me when I was younger. My mother is living off retirement income from a few different sources. That is what I need when I decide I have worked for long enough. The commercials about the increasing lifespans of Americans make me understand I could be one of those who needs to be salting away more money. Losing the library job cost me thousands in wages and potential retirement benefits, so I need to play catch up by using the resources I have available. At a time when African-American males are disappearing from the workforce, those of us who are still employed face an entirely different set of worries. That is the story of making it to the middle.
- Real Median Income 2011 Drops Again (toddballenger.typepad.com)
- Mother’s Day – Will Black American Moms Be Celebrating It? (financesonline.com)