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June 28, 2007

CRSP report outlines regional racial disparities

“Race is America’s defining social problem,” said Larry Davis, director of Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) and dean of the School of Social Work, at a press conference this week announcing a new report on regional racial disparities.

African Americans in the greater Pittsburgh region continue to lag behind whites and other racial groups in many quality-of-life indicators, according to the report issued by CRSP, part of the School of Social Work.

The report provides a snapshot of the quality of life for Pittsburgh area residents as compared with national quality-of-life averages.

Titled “Pittsburgh’s Racial Demographics: Differences and Disparities,” the 140-page report, more than four years in the making, is the first regional data collection that also compares data for Hispanics and Asians, including national comparisons of those groups, Pitt officials said.

With this data, the report argues, “policy makers, practitioners, researchers and members of the community [can] have a better understanding of the positive conditions and the problems different racial and ethnic groups face and therefore could provide better strategies for improving conditions.”

The report’s authors further stated, “It is our hope that this book will promote greater racial and ethnic equality in the Pittsburgh region and in the U.S.”

But officials at the June 26 press conference cautioned that the report is simply a presentation of factual data, rather than an analysis of causes and implications or a roadmap for solutions.

“That will come later,” Davis said, referring to a follow-up report expected to be completed by CRSP staff within a year. “This report is actually a beginning, phase 1. The main purpose is to have some facts available. We are not presenting this as so-called ‘negative statistics.’ The statistics aren’t negative; it’s just how it is. We don’t construct reality, we just present it. We can all agree on the facts. But often people will disagree on the implications, causes and solutions.”

Solutions, especially, he said, must come from the collective political will to seek them.

The plan is to update the demographics report every three or four years, Davis said.

The report is divided into six sections: families, youth and elderly; education; economic disparities; intergroup relations; mental health, and criminal justice.

Demographic data are provided for four racial groups (whites, African Americans, Asians and Hispanics) in four geographic areas (City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh six-county metropolitan statistical area and the United States).

Data are the most recent available, although in some instances only data from the 2000 census were available to make comparisons, the report noted.

In the City of Pittsburgh, whites make up 67 percent of the 334,500 residents, African Americans 27 percent, Asians 3 percent and Hispanics 1 percent.

Allegheny County’s 1.3 million residents are 84 percent white, 12 percent African American, 2 percent Asian and 1 percent Hispanic.

The Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area (MSA) population of 2.36 million is 89 percent white, 8 percent African American and 1 percent each Asian and Hispanic.

Nationally, in a population of 246 million, whites make up 69 percent, 12 percent are African Americans, 4 percent are Asians and 13 percent are Hispanics.

Some highlights in the report include:

• Male and female unemployment rates for whites, African Americans and Asians are higher in the Pittsburgh MSA than in the nation. Hispanic male unemployment rates are about the same in the MSA as in the nation, while Hispanic female unemployment rates are lower in the region than in the nation.

• The majority of K-12 students are white in Allegheny County (75 percent), the Pittsburgh MSA (85 percent) and the United States (59 percent). The majority of K-12 students enrolled in Pittsburgh public schools are African American (59 percent), but the majority of high school diplomas are awarded to whites.

• Higher percentages of whites than African Americans achieved proficiency in reading and math in 5th grade (61 vs. 33 percent), 8th grade (74 vs. 44 percent) and 11th grade (63 vs. 33 percent) in the Pittsburgh public schools.

• Among the groups, 5 percent of African Americans age 25 and older hold graduate or professional degrees in the city, county, Pittsburgh MSA and the United States, compared with 52 percent of Asians in the city, 48 percent of Asians in the county, 46 percent of Asians in the Pittsburgh MSA and 17 percent of Asians nationally. Among whites, 14 percent in the city, 11 percent in the county, 9 percent in the Pittsburgh MSA and 10 percent nationally hold graduate or professional degrees.

• The median income of white households in the city exceeds that of African Americans, Asians and Hispanics by more than $10,000. However, in the county, Pittsburgh MSA and the United States, Asians have the highest median household income.

• In the city, county and region, less than one-third of African-American children are being raised in married couple families, compared with more than half of Hispanic children, more than two-thirds of white children and more than four out of five Asian children.

• Thirty-seven percent of employed African Americans in the city use public transportation to get to work, compared with 16 percent of whites with jobs.

The racial demographics report is available online in PDF format at: For more information on the report, call CRSP at 412/624-7382.

—Peter Hart

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