Progressiveness is looking forward intelligently, looking within critically, and moving on incessantly. – Waldo Pondray Warren
I think if I hear that African America has over $1 trillion in buying power one more time from another person I might just lose it. It is usually coming from some well meaning liberal or African American “conscious” type trying to show that if only we harness our buying power, then all of our economic ails would be fixed. YACHTS for everyone! The problem is they throw this number around with absolutely no context. In reality, African America’s buying power is not even equal to the size of its population and highlights the daunting income disparity for African Americans.
To put it another way, Asian America has 8.2 million employed citizens with a buying power of $718 billion. African America has 16.2 million employed citizens with a buying power of $1.1 trillion. That essentially means, Asian Americans have two-thirds of the buying power of African American with only half the population. This is possible because the median income for Asian Americans is approximately $66 000, but for African Americans it is $34 000. So while Asian Americans only comprise 4.8 percent of the population, they control 5 percent of the country’s buying power.
Due to a mixture of factors like a weak education infrastructure in African American communities from K-12 through college, and lack of African American owned firms with paid employees we tend to be regulated to low-wage earning jobs. This has direct implications into the buying power that a community has at its disposal. It also creates a vicious cycle of being unable to accumulate wealth building assets and forces a disproportionate of low-income families which are predominantly African Americans to file bankruptcy. So while the buying power of African Americans looks like a lot because of the “trillion” behind the number, it is more than a bit misleading.
If African America’s buying power was equivalent to our population, then it would be valued at $2.2 trillion. That is approximately 100 percent higher than what it is currently. For that to happen with the current employment situation for African America the median African American income would need to rise from approximately $34 000 to $68 000. An almost impossible task currently for a number of the reasons stated previously. However, what is clear that we must stop just taking a number and throwing it around without broader context of what is it against the entire nation’s buying power or what does that break down to per person. Otherwise, it is just a “big” number. I think?