Study highlights region's racial disparities

Jan 20, 2016

Minority workers in the Buffalo-Niagara region make around 70 cents for each dollar earned by white workers, according to new report from the Partnership for the Public Good.

The Partnership for the Public Good has studied the relationship of race and wages in Western New York.

The study was prepared for an alliance of labor and clergy groups, as well as community groups. It argues the benefits of an improving local economy are not being spread equally, with the lowest-paying jobs filled with people of color and the hiring process not letting them get an equal shot at better jobs.

The goal is to take the report's conclusion and use them to force change in conditions leading to poverty.

Partnership co-director Sam Magavern says it's poverty, not simply struggling schools, at the heart of the problems.

"People talk about the dysfunction of the Buffalo public schools. Well, if you put all the kids in the Buffalo public schools together in the West Seneca school district, the result wouldn't change a lot. It's not that West Seneca has so much of a different school district. They have a different population of kids. In other words, they don't have intensely concentrated poverty," Magavern said.

Buffalo Branch NAACP President Frank Mesiah says things have to change.
"It's time now to forcefully address and remove those disparities and that the leadership of this region and to make sure that it does not dig its heels in, trying to defend the system, knowing the facts," Messiah said.

Leaders of the coalition say the report shows patterns of discrimination which can be ended and reversed, from refusing to hire minorities with criminal records while hiring whites with more severe records to creating jobs in high-poverty communities and hiring people in those communities.

Report sponsors argue a higher minimum wage would put more money into families' bank accounts to ease some of poverty's problems.