James H. Carr is chief operating officer for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based association that promote access to basic banking services for America’s working families. He is a member of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development’s “Experts of Color Clearinghouse”. The views expressed are his own.
The U.S. economy is unraveling at a pace not seen in decades. The more than 650,000 jobs lost last month has contributed to a growing concern that the unemployment rate could rise to 10 percent or higher before the economy rebounds. At the center of the economy’s instability is a foreclosure crisis that has claimed 3.5 million homes in the last year alone, and threatens the loss of an additional 8 to 10 million homes to foreclosure over the next five years.
The loss of wealth associated with the collapse of the housing market is staggering. More than $5 trillion in housing equity has virtually evaporated since the foreclosure crisis began. Major stock indexes have also been cut in half, further contributing to decreased consumer confidence, substantially reduced spending, lower productivity, rising unemployment and additional foreclosures.
The magnitude of the economic decline has led many observers to conclude that the current crisis is an “equal opportunity financial nightmare.” But, reality paints a different picture.
While few have been able to escape the financial pain completely, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and many Asian sub‐populations are bearing the brunt of this national epidemic. Today, as the national unemployment rate rests at 8.1 percent, African Americans and Latinos are mired in double-digit job losses — the unemployment rate exceeds 13 percent for African Americans, is just under 11 percent for Latinos, and is a little over 7 percent for non-Hispanic whites. For young black males, the rate is 25 percent and climbing.