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Spotlight on Statistics

February 2009

African American History Month, 2009

Audio Script

African American History Month is observed as a way to recall and commemorate the achievements and history of Americans of African descent. Here are some facts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that provide an economic snapshot of African Americans in the United States today.

In 2008, there were 17.7 million African Americans in the labor force—accounting for 11 percent of all Americans aged 16 and over who were employed or looking for work. The African American labor force is slightly younger than the total labor force.

In 1970, more than half of the African Americans in the labor force had less than a high school diploma. By 2008, that figure had declined dramatically to about one in ten. Just as notable was the increase in the percentage of African Americans with education beyond the high school level, which more than tripled from 1970 to 2008.

Higher education leads to higher earnings.  African American college graduates earn more than twice as much as those with less than a high school diploma.

Higher education also leads to lower unemployment rates. In 2008, the unemployment rate for African Americans 25 years and over without a high school diploma was over 14 percent, while the jobless rate for college graduates was 4 percent. This pattern has persisted over time.

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