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Black youth in Fort Wayne see good, bad trends: study

Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 6:47 am

Fewer blacks in Fort Wayne have jobs now than 10 years ago, and more black youths here live in poverty, but the community has made strides in areas such as education and crime, according to a new report.

The Indiana Black Expo released a study this week that details how black youth and families are faring statewide and in 16 individual cities, including Fort Wayne, compared with the general population.

The study found that unemployment among blacks in Fort Wayne rose from 13.4 percent in 2000 to 18.6 percent in 2010 – an increase of nearly 39 percent among working-age blacks, the report said. Over the same period, the number of black children under age 18 living in poverty in Fort Wayne increased by 9.5 percentage points, from 37.1 percent to 46.6 percent, according to the report.

The study also found some positive trends – but even in the areas trending in the right direction, blacks still lag behind the general population, the report found.

Based on U.S. Census data, median income for black households in Fort Wayne increased by nearly 5 percent – from $27,213 in 2000 to $28,492 in 2010 – but remained far lower than that of the general population and behind black households statewide. Still, the median income for blacks in Fort Wayne trended upward, while it went down statewide.

Blacks in the community have seen improvement in test scores and the number of students earning the most valuable high school diplomas, though fewer blacks graduate with honors than students among the general population.

The number of black high school graduates with Core 40 – a standard for strong high school course offerings – or honors diplomas increased by 29.1 percent from 2008 to 2012. There also were big improvements in the number of black 3rd-graders who passed the English portion of the ISTEP – a statewide measure of student achievement. Math numbers improved by 8.4 percent, according to the report.

Patrice Miller, president of the local Indiana Black Expo chapter, and Carlton Mable, a member of the organization’s state board, were not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The expo contracted Indianapolis-based consulting firm Engaging Solutions and the Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for the study, which is based on state and federal data, including census figures.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 41,618 blacks and African Americans live in Allen County, or about 11.7 percent of the county’s total population. The black youth population in Fort Wayne is about 14,000, the expo report said.

An upward trend in teen pregnancies poses another challenge for local blacks, the report shows. Citing data from the Indiana Department of Health, the report said black teen births increased by 13 percent from 2005 to 2008 and remain far more frequent than teen births among Fort Wayne’s general population.

In another positive trend, juvenile delinquency cases involving black youths decreased by 19 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to data from the Indiana Supreme Court, the study found.

The Indiana Black Expo report, dubbed the “State of our Black Youth,” is the third in a series of reports released by the group. The last was published in 2007.