SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Young African American men are falling behind their peers in the classroom. PBS reports only 54% of African Americans graduate from high school, compared to more than 75% of their Caucasian and Asian American peers. Black male students in grades K-12 were “nearly 2.5 times more likely to be suspended from school in 2000 as white students,” and their twelfth-grade reading scores are currently lower than any other racial and ethnic group.
Barriers in high school lead to a glass ceiling for higher education. According to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), black males ages 18 and older make up just 5.5% of all college students. Of the young black males who do make it to college, only one in six will receive a college degree.
The NAACP warns African American males are filling up prisons nationwide in disproportionate numbers, comprising 1 million out of the total 2.3 million incarcerated. In fact, if current trends continue, “one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.” Our affiliate, CBS Philly, reported in January that a shocking 49% of African American males have been arrested before their 23rd birthday.
Many young African Americans live in deep poverty, which can cripple their chances of education and, ultimately, upward mobility. According to a 2010 Census survey, the poverty rate for black children is the highest rate of any race group—38.2% live below the US average. For them, obtaining and consistently holding a job is significantly more difficult. The State of Young America report (2011) revealed that one in three African American men age 18-24 is unemployed. Similarly, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee reports unemployment for young black men is “roughly twice as high as the rate for all young men.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime gives troubling statistics about African American young males and crime, reporting “black youth are three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect, three times more likely to be victims of robbery, and five times more likely to be victims of homicide. In fact, homicide is the leading cause of death among African American youth ages 15 to 24.”
While African American young males have lower rates of licit and illicit substance use compared to white men, they are at greater risk for drug-related issues. The Drug Policy Alliance reports that African Americans are also more likely to end up incarcerated for their drug-related activity, comprising only 14% of users but 37% of those arrested. And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, African American drug users also “experience higher rates of drug-related health problems than do users from other ethnic groups” despite having lower rates of drug use overall.