There’s an old saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. This seems to be true in today’s booming economy—with low unemployment rates at the state and national levels translating into historical lows in communities that often lag behind. For example, economic fortunes for African Americans are showing sustained signs of improvement, with the most recent June 2018 unemployment rate coming in at 6.5 percent, up slightly from May’s all-time low of 5.9 percent.

And while improving employment prospects are certainly encouraging signs for a community that continues to experience unacceptably disparities on most socioeconomic measures compared to other groups, a new study from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) offers even more evidence that African American men are making steady gains toward achieving the American Dream.

In Black Men Making It in America: The Engines of Economic Success for Black Men in America, well-known marriage and family researchers Brad Wilcox and Wendy Wang team up with fatherhood expert Ronald Mincy to examine the institutional engines that form the foundation for black male success.

Some key takeaways from this AEI report:

  • The economic standing of black men has improved dramatically, with 57% now in the middle class or higher as adults today—up from 38% in 1960. Even better, the share of black men who are poor has fallen from 41% in 1960 to 18% in 2016.
  • While higher education and full-time work are powerful engines of success for black men in America, so, too, is participation in institutions such as marriage, church, and the military.
  • Contact with the criminal justice system remains a significant obstacle to success for black men. By midlife, only 28% of black men who had contact with the criminal justice system when they were young have moved into the middle or upper class, compared to 52% of black men who had no contact with the criminal justice system at a younger age.

Here at Georgia Center for Opportunity, we believe in a simple concept called the “success sequence,” which says that a good education leads to a stable job—which in turn leads to a flourishing home life and personal success.

Clearly, this AEI report reinforces GCO programs like Hiring Well, Doing Good and our Prisoner Reentry Initiative, which aim to remove barriers to opportunity and put Georgians back on a rising tide—or sequence—of success that lifts individuals, then families, out of generational poverty into flourishing communities.

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