New report shows disparities among black women in Delaware

The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Delaware Chapter released a unique study, illustrating disparities among black women in education, employment, government and health.

On Saturday, the organization introduced its “The State of Our Union: Black Women and Girls in Delaware” study at Delaware State University in Dover.

“The NCBW understands that the data and sometimes the lack of data about black women and girls is critical to having conversations, building alliances and creating policies,” said Kristen Williams, who once served as president during her 20 year membership.

The study was sparked after three congresswomen from New Jersey, Illinois and New York took the initiative to create the congressional caucus on black women and girls, Williams said.

“What that did was signal the need for a vehicle on Capitol Hill to create something that had never been done before, attempt to devote public policy attention that eliminates the significant barriers, disparities and experiences, and to make black women and girls a priority in national policy debates around this country,” Williams said.

University of Delaware Ph.D. student, principal researcher and author Cimone Philpotts compiled the findings for the NCBWDE report.

“The population of Delaware is under one million … 23 percent are black and specifically 11.7 [percent] are black women,” Philpotts said.

With that number in mind, she noted that black women typically show up at the polls and have a higher voting rate in the state, but remain underrepresented at every level of federal and state political offices in the United States.

“In Delaware, we have one black woman member of Congress [Lisa Blunt-Rochester], one black woman state senator [Margaret Rose-Henry], who is retiring in November, and one black woman state representative [Stephanie T. Bolden],” said Philpotts who added that all three are members of the coalition.

Employment disparity

Despite several advances in recent years, the numbers don’t look any better in regards to employment and earnings for black women.

“Black women in Delaware are highly represented in the labor force yet are more likely to live in poverty,” Philpotts found.

She even highlighted a few facts:

  • 18 percent of black women live below the poverty line,
  • Black families depend on black women’s earning, 8 out of 10 black mothers are the breadwinners,
  • The median household income is $38,000.

“Equal pay has been an issue since women’s suffrage in 1913, if the current trend continues, Black women won’t see equal pay until 2051,” Philpotts said.

Health and well-being

Also in the study, the health and well-being of black women was addressed. In fact, research revealed that one in five African-Americans is a caregiver. However, they are more likely to face unique challenges and heavier burdens due to lower household incomes. As a result mental health can also be impacted due to socioeconomic status, chronic disease, substance abuse problems and more.

“Ninety percent of Black women have health insurance, but there is a disconnect between being insured and access to equality healthcare.  Black women have higher mortality rates. We are dying at a faster rate from having children, heart disease and breast cancer,” Philpotts said.

Education

Education in Delaware also showed some disparities. About 15 percent of students enrolled in public schools are black girls. Most of them are in New Castle County. Statewide, the study revealed that students are performing at a 43 percent proficiency rate in math. In English and language arts, students are performing at a 54 percent proficiency rate. However, black girls are performing at a 27 proficiency rate in math and 44 percent proficiency rate in English and language arts.

“I want every student in Delaware to have the absolute best education, they deserve it but if you look at what they were saying in this session about how our girls are under-performing, I’m inspired even more to go out, talk about literacy, and talk about math,” said Debbie Harrington, who hopes to make changes within the Delaware legislature if elected in the 9th District.

The report goes on to detail disparities in school discipline along with student funding. Melanie Daniels of the NCBW said change could be on the way, but only if more people get involved and advocate for black women and girls.

“This is the first step to leveling the playing fields and getting black women and girls into the successful position that they should be in,” Daniels said.

In the meantime, the plan is to present this report across to the state to policy makers, funders and community stakeholders in an effort to move forward and mobilize people into action.

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