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Introduction

This report presents an historical view of changes in the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of the Black population in the United States. The historical profile is the distinguishing feature of this report, which is the ninth in the series on Black Americans. The study focuses on changes which have occurred in population distribution, income levels, labor force, employment, education, family composition, mortality, fertility, housing, voting, public officeholding, Armed Forces personnel, and other major aspects of life.

Most of the data presented in this report are from the Bureau of the Census with the decennial censuses and Current Population Surveys as the primary sources. In addition, statistics are presented from other Federal agencies and from private sources. The study assembles in one report data which have been published previously in many different volumes; in order to achieve historical comparability, some of the census statistics have been adjusted from those previously published. Still other data from the Census Bureau and other Federal and private agencies were specially tabulated or prepared for inclusion in this report.

The report is divided into two parts: Part One features historical trends covering the period from 1790 to 1975; Part Two covers recent trends from 1975 to 1978.

Each of the eight chapters in Part One contains a descriptive discussion of the major changes relating to a particular aspect of life for the Black population. The key years selected for data presentation in Part One, which covers a 185-year span, were 1790, 1870, 1890, 1910, 1940, 1960, 1970, and 1975. However, consistency in the years shown was difficult to achieve because of the unavailability of the data. Statistics for some subjects, such as income, have become available only within the past three to four decades and, therefore, are shown for different years and for a much shorter time period. In general, the earliest available data for each topic are included in the chapters.

The most current information available has been presented in Part Two of the report.

A view of the characteristics of the Black population in the 18th and 19th centuries is provided by census statistics supplemented by historical accounts. These data sources reveal that during most of the 1700's and 1800's, the prevalence of slavery was a major influence on the historical development of Black Americans. In the first census of 1790, about 757,000 persons were reported as Black. Seventy years later, just prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, the 1860 census showed the Black population had grown almost sixfold to 4.4 million. This large increase was due to the importation of slaves and high fertility levels. In each census

during the pre-Civil War period, 86 percent or more of the Blacks were slaves. In addition, both the 1790 and 1860 censuses showed that 9 of every 10 Blacks lived in the South.

The last 30 years of the 19th century (the Reconstruction Period) brought unprecedented numbers of Blacks into public office in both the U.S. Congress and State governments of the South. Following the Civil War, the growth rate of the Black population turned downward.

In 1890, census results indicated that most Blacks lived in rural areas and continued to live in the South. Moreover, illiteracy was widespread, as only a small number of Blacks received formal educational training. At this time, the majority of Black men were agricultural workers, while Black women were employed primarily in domestic and personal service occupations.

Modest improvements in the living conditions of Black Americans began to take place during the latter part of the 19th century and continued into the 20th century, when profound changes occurred. Developments and events such as the transformation of the Nation from an agricultural to an industrialized one, the Depression, the World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Federal government programs, the migration of Blacks from the South to the North, civil rights movements, and voter-education programs have all had an impact upon the socioeconomic status of Black Americans in the 20th century.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the overwhelming majority of Blacks continued to live in the South, although relatively large numbers ( a net outmigration of 749,000) left the South during the 1920's. During the early part of this century, the growth rate for the Black population showed a general downward movement, with only a few interruptions, as a result of general declines in fertility levels.

Progress was made in education, health, and employment in the beginning decades of the 20th century. Illiteracy was reduced substantially as a consequence of increased availability of schooling; between 1890 and 1910, the illiteracy rate dropped from 61 to 33 percent. Health conditions improved and important gains were made in life expectancy for Blacks, especially in the decade between 1909-11 and 1919 21 when life expectancy at birth increased 13 years for Black males and over 9 years for Black females.

The 1930 census showed that 5.5 million Blacks were in the labor force. The labor force had experienced some growth since the 1890 census, primarily as a result of a national population increase and the expansion of unskilled jobs during and immediately after World War I. The occupational distribution for Blacks from the 1930 census reflected

substantial declines in agricultural employment and the movement of Blacks out of the Southern agricultural areas to unskilled factory jobs in the North. In 1930, however, 37 percent of Blacks were still working in farming and related occupations.

In contrast to the gains mentioned above, for the first three decades of this century, the advances made in political representation during the Reconstruction Period were almost obliterated.

The Great Depression substantially diminished some of the gains made in the first three decades of the 20th century. For example, during the 1930's, the growth of the Black labor force was severely curtailed.

The 1940's marked the beginning of the predominantly one-way migration stream of Blacks from the South to the North; this movement continued to the 1970 decade. (The South lost close to 1.5 million Blacks in each of the three decades.) One of the major factors contributing to this mi. gration was that World War II accelerated the movement of Blacks from the South to job opportunities in the industrialized areas of the North. As a further consequence, the geographical distribution of the Black population changed; by 1970, only 53 percent of Blacks lived in the South and 81 percent lived in urban areas.

A large increase in average life expectancy at birth for Blacks was recorded during the World War II period: 7 years for both Black males and females. As the major diseases of the early 1900's-childhood and infectious diseases-were brought under control by an improved standard of living, expanded public health programs, etc., progress was made in reducing mortality levels among Blacks. Fertility levels for Black women began to increase again in the late 1940's and reached an apex in the 1950's.

Progress in educational attainment was most impressive for the Black population, especially for young Black adults. Most of the change has occurred since 1960. For instance, in 1940 (the first census in which information on years of school completed was collected) 1 out of 10 Blacks 25 to 34 years old had completed high school; two decades later, in 1960, the proportion was 3 out of 10; and only one decade later, in 1970, about 5 out of every 10 Blacks 25 to 34 years old were high school graduates.

Information on the composition of Black families, available only since 1940, indicates a trend of declining proportions of families with both a husband and a wife present and increasing proportions maintained by a woman. Specifically, in 1940, 77 percent of Black families had a husband and wife present; by 1970, the figure was reduced to 68 percent. Concomitant to the trend of declining proportions of families with a husband and wife present has been a decline in the proportion of own Black children living with both parents.

In 1940, Blacks were greatly concentrated in the lowest paying, least-skilled jobs; few had white-collar or craft positions. By 1970, advances had been made, with the proportion of Blacks in white collar jobs quadrupling from 6 percent in 1940 to 24 percent in 1970.

The Census Bureau began collecting income information

been overall moderate income growth for Black families, interrupted by several recessions. From 1947 to 1969 (after accounting for inflation in terms of 1974 dollars), the most pronounced upgrading (36-percent increase) in the income levels for Blacks occurred during the period 1964 to 1969.' Increases were noted during the 1947-53 and 1959-64 periods; however, little or no progress was made during the period from 1953 to 1959 as a result of the 1953-54 and 1957-58 recessions.

Unemployment rates for Blacks have fluctuated since 1948 (the first year these data were available by race from the Current Population Survey). The rates were lowest during the Korean war years (1951 to 1953). After the Korean war, rates began to rise and reached high levels between 1958 and 1963, reflecting the effects of the 1957-58 and 1960-61 recessions. Declines were recorded in the mid- and late 1960's, but by 1970, jobless rates had begun to creep upward again.

In examining the trends from 1940 to 1970, of particular note is the 1960 decade, especially the mid- and late 1960's, when Blacks made major social and economic advances in income, employment, education, voter registration and participation, home ownership, and election to public office, and the number of Blacks in poverty were reduced. It has been suggested that expanded government programs, the civil rights movements, and efforts to reduce segregation and discrimination were some of the factors which contributed to the progress.

Unlike the patterns noted for the 1960 decade, the 1970's (presented in both Part One and Part Two of this report) portray a mixed picture for Black Americans. Blacks continued their progress in the areas of education, home owner. ship, and election to public office. Nevertheless, the prolonged dual impact of the recessions and inflation continued to adversely affect income and employment. For instance, the 1977 median income for Black families ($9,560) showed no improvement over the 1974 level; the number of Blacks in poverty in 1977 (7.7 million) rose by over one-half million from the 1974 level; and unemployment levels remained high despite slight improvement in mid-1978.

The 1970 decade has been further distinguished by changes in migration patterns, family composition, fertility levels, and the work experience patterns of family members. Undoubtedly, these factors and their interrelationships have had, and will have in the future, an imprint upon the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of the Black community.

In summary, significant advances have been made by Black Americans since the first census was taken in 1790. However, in 1978, the 25.4 million Blacks in this country remained far behind Whites in almost every social and economic area.

Detailed information on these and other measurable aspects of the living conditions of Blacks from 1790 to 1978 are presented in the 10 chapters of this report.

'The difference in the rate of increase in income levels during the 1964-69 and the 1947-53 period is statistically significant at the 1.6 level of significance. See appendix C, "Source and Reliability of the

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