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African Americans a growing force in North Carolina

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North Carolina’s African-American residents are having an increasing impact on the state’s economy, but areas for improvement remain, a recent report says.

The African-American population contributes more than $44.7 billion annually to the state’s economy through purchases and taxes, a figure that could increase to $60 billion by 2009, the report says.

At the same time, that population costs the state $4.5 billion in health care, education and corrections.

The net per-capita cost, which is tax revenues generated by African Americans minus the costs of service they use, is $420, the report says.

The study, “The Economic Impact of the African American Population on the State of North Carolina,” was conducted by the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, part of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and is based on data from 2004 and 2005.

“This study shows that clear opportunities exist for financial institutions and other businesses to capitalize on this growing market,” Andrea Harris, president of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development, a major funder of the study, says in a statement.

The report profiles a segment of the state that is young and growing. North Carolina’s 1.8 million African-American residents make up 21.8 percent of the state’s population and represent 20.4 percent of the population growth between 1980 and 2004.

Their median age, 32, contrasts sharply with a median age of 39 for North Carolina’s white population.

The growth of the African-American population extends to the workplace, where African Americans accounting for 29.3 percent of the state’s overall workforce increase between 1995 and 2005, particularly in the education and health-services sector and in leisure and hospitality services.

Yet despite increasing representation in numbers, the salary gap between whites and African Americans remains significant.

Though a high school diploma is the median education level for both whites and blacks, African Americans receive $11,970 less in annual per capita income, the study says.

The report also highlights disparities in family group composition, geographic concentration and incarceration rates, finding that nearly six in 10 of all people incarcerated in North Carolina are African American, a percentage that exceeds by nearly three times the group’s share of the total state population.

The study identified three areas of opportunity to increase the economic impact of North Carolina’s African-American population, including helping black-owned businesses go global, providing entrepreneurial training for unemployable ex-offenders, and improving K-12 education in majority-black schools.

This study follows a similar report by Kenan-Flagler released in 2006 on the state’s Hispanic population.

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