Report | Inequality and Poverty

Reducing poverty and increasing marriage rates among Latinos and African Americans

Issue Brief #313

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Press Release: Latino and black poverty rates driven by lack of good jobs and high unemployment, finds EPI paper

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 8, 2011
Contact: Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner, 202-775-8810

The causes of Latino and African American poverty rates are a lack of good jobs, high unemployment rates and high incarceration rates, not declining marriage rates, a new Economic Policy Institute (EPI) issue brief finds.  Reducing poverty and increasing marriage rates among Latinos and African Americans by EPI expert Algernon Austin also finds that reducing poverty among Latinos and African Americans would increase marriage rates among these groups.

Hispanic workers are more likely than African American or white workers to earn low wages.  In 2009, the share of Hispanics earning poverty-level wages was 18.3 percentage points above the share of white workers.  Hispanics have also experienced the largest drop in the share of workers in good jobs, which the paper defines as jobs that provide wages at 60 percent of the median household income for a full-time worker, health insurance and retirement benefits.

African Americans have consistently had the highest unemployment rates among the major racial groups—in the past 50 years, the U.S. has never achieved full employment for African Americans.  The African American community also suffers economically from the relatively large share of its members who are incarcerated and who do not receive an income.

Though marriage rates have declined for Latinos and African Americans (as well as for whites), these groups still want to marry at fairly high rates.  However, because of rising inequality, many members of these groups believe they cannot afford to do so.  It is likely that an anti-poverty agenda that targets the decline in good jobs, high unemployment and increasing incarceration rates would have the added effect of increasing marriage rates.