New report on Black Pa. shows improvement — and room for growth, lawmakers say

Produced By: - February 28, 2023 12:58 pm

From household income and access to healthcare to a reduction in incarceration rates, Black Pennsylvanians have made strides over the last decade, but significant policy challenges still remain.

That’s the picture painted by a data-rich new report, released on the final day of Black History Month, that measures changes in the quality of life for Pennsylvania’s Black residents between 2010 and 2021. The document is intended to serve as the basis for future legislation, lawmakers said Tuesday.

“This is a report on overcoming adversity, a report on what a group of people have overcome over time,” said Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia, whose office oversaw the compilation of the data. “Which makes it appropriate for Black History Month.”  

The report found, for instance, that while Black Pennsylvanians saw their earnings rise between 2010 and 2021 – particularly among households earning $100,000 or more – nearly a quarter of the state’s Black residents continue to live in poverty. Black home ownership also decreased during that same time period. 

The report also found that high school graduation rates increased between 2010 and 2021, as did the number of Black Pennsylvanians who had attended college or obtained an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The former rose from 94,054 in 2010 to 115,791 in 2021, while the latter increased from 45,965 in 2010 to 80,402 in 2021, the document showed.

However, the number of Black students who were enrolled in schools across the commonwealth declined from 436,990 students in 2010 to 353,490 in 2021, the report showed. 

And while access to healthcare rose among Black Pennsylvanians over the last decade, with more than half having some kind of public or private coverage, the percentage of Black or African American adults who were told they had diabetes also increased.

More than 16% of Black or African American adults were told by a physician that they had diabetes in 2013, up from 13.1% in 2013. The percentage of Black or African American adults who were told by a physician that they have cardiovascular disease dipped slightly, from 6.6% in 2013 to 5.9% in 2021, the report showed.

The number of Black Pennsylvanians who are incarcerated in state prisons dropped from 25,357 in 2010 to 17,173 in 2021, as part of an overall reduction in the state’s prison population, Black inmates currently account for 46% of the people in state prisons, down from 49.4% a decade ago, the report showed.

“What we now have is a foundation of data that will lead us forward into … opportunities in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said.  

Read the full report below:

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.

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