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Urban League: Black Middle Class Could Shrink

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 15, 2008 4:00PM

2008_2_15.urbanleague.jpgAccording to a new study released by Chicago Urban League Wednesday, Chicago must expand education, business and economic opportunities for African-Americans in order to become and remain globally competitive. Cook County is the most densely black populated county in the nation with 1.4 million blacks, 1.1 million of whom live in the city.

Funded by a $6.2 million grant from the BP Foundation, the Urban League is warning that the region's black middle class could shrink substantially without stronger public education and more economic development. The goal of the study was to identify areas of deficiency and formulate solutions to those problems. That includes creating business networks where African-American companies can get advice from non-minority owned firms, and partnering with black churches to help start businesses in the community. "Economic entrepreneurship is essential because it is a primary source of jobs in African-American communities and it's significance has traditionally been underestimated by policy analysts" the study points out. Increasing access to capital for the black community could be the key to "unlocking the puzzle of inner-city poverty."

The Chicago Urban League has already launched project NEXT, its economic development program. projectNEXT focuses on advocacy, education, workforce and economic development and entrepreneurship and property ownership. The Chicago Urban League will unveil the next part of its program today, targeting workforce development and training. "African-Americans are hopeful about their future in Chicago. The challenge is that they lack a pathway to success," Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson told the Tribune. "They're just not sure it's for them."