The Gap: In a Single Statistic, the Measure of a Racial Tragedy
By JONATHAN TILOVE
May 5, 2005
c.2005 Newhouse News Service
There are nearly 2 million more black adult women than men in America, stark testimony to how often black men die before their time.
Worse yet, with nearly another million black men in prison or the military, the reality in most black communities across the country is of an even greater imbalance _ a gap of 2.8 million, or 26 percent, according to Census Bureau figures for 2002. The comparable disparity for whites was 8 percent.
Perhaps no single statistic so precisely measures the fateful, often fatal price of being a black man in America, or so powerfully conveys how beset black communities are by the violence and disease that leave them bereft of brothers, fathers, husbands and sons. And because the number of black males plummets as they move from their teens to their 20s, the gap first appears with the suddenness of a natural disaster.
The imbalance between the numbers of black men and women does not exist everywhere. There is no gap to speak of in places with relatively small black populations like Minneapolis, Minn., Portland, Ore., San Francisco and San Diego, and Seattle actually has more black men than women. But it is the rule in those communities with large concentrated black populations that are the hub of African-American life, and it is as good an indicator as any of things gone wrong.
There are more than 30 percent more black women than men in Baltimore, New Orleans, Chicago and Cleveland, and in smaller cities like Harrisburg, Pa., Syracuse, N.Y., Flint, Mich., and Mobile and Birmingham, Ala.
There are 36 percent more black women than men in New York City, and 37 percent more in Saginaw, Mich., in Philadelphia, and in East Orange.
Since you never hear about this, I've always wondered if Tilove's results were replicable.
I finally found a government report for New York City in 2000, and, yes, the ratio of black males to females plummets from about age 21 onward. To eliminate the natural effect of women living longer on average, I just looked at ages 20 through 39 in New York City. There were 28% more black women than men in that cohort.
And, it's not much caused by black women moving to New York because they were fans of Sex and the City, either. In Manhattan (which includes Harlem), the gap was smallest, with just 15% more women than men among 20 to 39 year olds. In more middle class Queens, with its large West Indian population, the gap was only 18%. In Staten Island 27%, in the Bronx 32%, and in Brooklyn, which had, by far, New York City's largest black population, the gap was 35%.
Hopefully, the decline in homicides and AIDS deaths means the gap is smaller in the 2010 Census, but I haven't been able to find any numbers for NYC from that Census yet.