Tag Archives: african american buying power

HBCU Money™ Business Book Feature – Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy


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Maggie and John Anderson were successful African American professionals raising two daughters in a tony suburb of Chicago. But they felt uneasy over their good fortune. Most African Americans live in economically starved neighborhoods. Black wealth is about one tenth of white wealth, and black businesses lag behind businesses of all other racial groups in every measure of success. One problem is that black consumers–unlike consumers of other ethnicities– choose not to support black-owned businesses. At the same time, most of the businesses in their communities are owned by outsiders.

On January 1, 2009 the Andersons embarked on a year-long public pledge to “buy black.” They thought that by taking a stand, the black community would be mobilized to exert its economic might. They thought that by exposing the issues, Americans of all races would see that economically empowering black neighborhoods benefits society as a whole. Instead, blacks refused to support their own, and others condemned their experiment. Drawing on economic research and social history as well as her personal story, Maggie Anderson shows why the black economy continues to suffer and issues a call to action to all of us to do our part to reverse this trend.

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CALM DOWN: African America’s $1 Trillion In Buying Power Is Only 6 Percent of America’s Buying Power


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.

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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?