Beyond Health Care: Black America Lags

James Norris is shown in Charlotte, N.C., on March 17, 2010. In this banking center walloped by the Great Recession, where unemployment just hit a 20-year high and as many as one in three black folks are out of work, black people could easily be frustrated with President Barack Obama's insistence that a rising economic tide will lift African-American boats.
Landmark U.S. health legislation will not be enough to reduce racial gaps in unemployment and health care, the National Urban League says in urging President Barack Obama to promote a "jobs surge" that targets hard-hit communities.

In its annual "State of Black America" report being released Wednesday, the 100-year-old organization said African Americans had made gains in overall equality with whites as measured partly by their high voter turnout in 2008. Still, blacks lagged in homeownership rates and were almost twice as likely to be unemployed and lack health insurance.

The 151-page study, which in 2007 featured a foreword by then-Sen. Obama bemoaning the problems facing black men, makes clear that it appreciates his efforts so far as president but that "much, much more must be done."

Report: Black America Needs to Save

Seeking to broaden its appeal, the report for the first time also addresses inequality for Hispanics, the nation's fastest growing demographic group. It noted that Latinos faced many problems similar to blacks and in some areas may lag further behind, such as voter participation, insurance coverage and college enrollment.

"Now it's time for a strong jobs bill," said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.

"I think the health bill is a very important landmark piece of legislation that in the long term will also create jobs. But that's not immediate," Morial told The Associated Press. "In the short run, we may be looking at continuing high unemployment. It's just not acceptable when Congress and the president spent a considerable amount of money bailing out the banks and auto companies."

The report includes policy discussions and essays from academics, business leaders and members of the Obama administration such as Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.