Racial disparities in PA increased in 50 years


Jomonna Smith listens to her children, 12-year-old Mon’Dayja and 9-year-old Mon’Dae, answer the doctor’s questions about school, chores and their health.

(Public Source Photo/Alexandra Kanik)


by Halle Stockton

(Public Source)–Jomonna Smith, a 30-year-old woman, held her last job in 2008 as a store cashier.

She is a single mother of three children, making ends meet with government assistance, styling hair on the side and a bit of family help.

She relies on buses to get around and pays $301 a month to live in a public housing project in Braddock, a borough southeast of Pittsburgh.

But she craves more for herself and her children.



Mon’Dae plays with the scale at the doctor’s office while waiting in the exam room with his sister. (Public Source Photo/Alexandra Kanik)


“I don’t want to stay in the projects,” she said. “I’ve been there for about five years now and I feel like it’s time for me to take a step ahead and do bigger things. My children are getting older, you know. It’s time for a change.”

On several levels, Smith represents the life that many Blacks and Latinos in Pennsylvania live. The past 50 years have seen an increase in the disparities between minorities and Whites on economic and educational progress, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures for the state.

And, in some cases, the gaps are the worst in a half-century.

A PublicSource analysis looked at five U.S. Census Bureau measures — family income, poverty, high school and college graduation and homeownership — for Blacks, Latinos and Whites in Pennsylvania from 1960 to 2010.

The plight of minorities in the state closely parallels trends in the nation, reported by I-News Network in Colorado. The nonprofit website gathered and formatted Census data for all 50 states.

Political and social trends to protect poor and vulnerable populations have slowed in the past few decades, said community leaders and advocates in Pittsburgh. And the overall economic downturn has hurt blacks and Latinos more than whites, they said.

“Wealth is an intergenerational thing, and we’ve started many people off in this country with nothing,” said Lisa Frank of One Pittsburgh, a group formed to address income inequality.

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