Inadequate Education + Low Income + High Rates of Illness = Unhealthy Communities for Boys and Men of Color and Their Families In Alameda County

Few would dispute that income and education are important for well-being and long-term health. This relationship is well documented and supported by an impressive body of research, much of which examines related outcomes by race/ethnicity.

Urban Strategies Council recently completed a new data profile in support of planning efforts for the Oakland-Alameda County Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. What we found is a sobering reminder: Boys and Men of Color in Oakland and Alameda County fare worse on every measure of income, education, and well-being under study.

Income estimates provided by the American Community Survey show that only Whites’ income surpass all other racial/ethnic groups, earning more than double that for Latinos and two-thirds higher than Blacks.

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School-related data from Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) was also included to provide a portrait of school-based outcomes for Boys and Men of Color. While data for graduation rates reflect an upward trend for nearly every racial/ethnic group, disparities are evident across data for school suspensions and performance on standardized test scores. As one example, African American students had the highest rate of “below basic” performance on the Math CST in 2012-13, and they were joined by Native American and Pacific Islander male students as the three groups to have more students score “below basic” than “proficient or advanced.”

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The most pronounced disparities were identified in health outcomes data, which showed that African Americans in Alameda County were more likely to be hospitalized with conditions like asthma, diabetes, and obesity. Consequently, African Americans had higher mortality rates than any other group countywide. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic, however, concerns asthma hospitalization rates; in Alameda County between 2011-2013, African-American children (5 and under) were hospitalized for asthma at a rate 5 times higher than that of similarly aged White males – in Oakland, that difference grows to 8 times higher.

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The data profile includes six broad categories of data in total: demographics, health, education, employment and income, safety, and youth development. While we do identify some positive trends (e.g. high school graduation rates for African-American, Asian, And Latino males in Oakland Schools have increased steadily over 4 years), other areas reveal alarming levels of disparities, such as with childhood asthma hospitalizations, income, and rates of incarceration. Black boys and men, in particular, are more likely to have their lives cut short, and more likely to spend those lives sick, in jail, out of work, and exposed to violence.

As an organization committed to improving outcomes for Boys and Men of Color, we often struggle with statistics like these that reflect limited progress or force us to face the enormous challenges that lie ahead. Fortunately, we hear stories of many young men and boys succeeding amid chaos and trauma, flourishing despite the outcomes for men of their race being tragically poor on the whole. But our goal is not to encourage us to find the rare success, but rather to raise up entire communities so that they may find health and prosperity and realize their full potential. This data profile tells us that we have a long way to go, and these results tell us that there is a need to push harder than ever for positive change at a systems level.

Take a look, and tell us what you think.