Income Inequality, Child Poverty, Unemployment Account for Rising Number of Youths in Extremist Groups

Young people are drawn into the white supremacist movement through many avenues, including the propaganda of Internet hate sites and racist rock 'n' roll. But socioeconomic factors, including stark economic pressures on youths and young families, have played a major part in making the young — particularly those in the working class and lower-middle class — susceptible to messages of hate.

Here, gathered from disparate sources, are a number of indicators reflecting these socioeconomic pressures, most of which have increased dramatically since the 1970s (see Youth at the Edge). Changing demographic trends, falling wages, rising child poverty, diminishing opportunities for the less educated, and high rates of both youth arrests and youth incarceration are among these factors.

Finally, a recent survey seems to reflect the rise of ethnic nationalism, with young people of all races more willing than they have been in decades to accept separation of the races.

Income Inequality at Historic Levels
Income inequality — a factor that can generate even more social resentment than actual economic losses — has reached levels unprecedented since the Great Depression. Over the last 22 years, these disparities have reached a level where the total after-tax income of the top 1% of American households exceeds that of the bottom 20%.

The gap in accumulated wealth between the rich and the poor is even greater, with the wealthiest 20% of households owning nearly 85% of the nation's total wealth. Source: Congressional Budget Office/Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

Child Poverty Soars in Young Families
The economic environment in which American children are being raised has worsened radically over the last two decades, especially for young families. Between 1973 and 1994, the poverty rate for all children in young families more than doubled, with the worst rates experienced by the rapidly growing number of single-parent families.

At the same time, young families headed by a high school dropout saw their median incomes cut by half. The median income for those headed by a high school graduate dropped by one third. Source: Center for Labor Market Studies/Children's Defense Fund

Unemployment Way Up for Unschooled
While unemployment rates for young people have remained fairly steady over the last 30 years, the jobless rate for those with less education has risen sharply — meaning that high school and college degrees are more important than ever.

People who are aged 16-24 with only a high school degree suffer from unemployment levels more than twice those of college graduates, while the level for those who have not finished high school was about five times that of those who are college-educated. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wages for Young Workers Plummet
Average hourly wages have declined precipitously since 1973, with by far the most dramatic decreases seen among young workers. These younger workers, who are aged between 20 and 29, have seen their real wages (measured here in constant 1996 dollars) fall by almost 22% — a drop that may contribute to rising juvenile crime rates.

According to an analysis by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, a 20% drop in wages is statistically correlated with a 12-18% increase in youth crime. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics/Children's Defense Fund

Juvenile Arrests for Violent Crime Are Up
Arrests of juveniles for violent crimes skyrocketed 79% between 1987 and 1994 — a period in which the population of juveniles in the United States rose just 7%. Since 1994, these arrest rates have declined somewhat, but they are still well above levels of the 1980s.

Crimes committed by those under 18 years old also are more violent in the 1990s than they were earlier, with young people accounting for larger percentages of all murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults than in the 1980s. Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Once Scolded, Kids Now Go to Prison
The number of incarcerated juveniles is at a historic high, having risen 35% during the 1990s alone. As a result, more young people are being exposed to the racist gangs that dominate penal institutions and, at least in some cases, are becoming hard-line racial supremacists in the process.

In 1972, 45% of youths under 18 arrested were released by police, often after a good scolding. Today, as the public clamors for more punishment, that number has fallen by half, with far more juveniles referred to the courts. Source: U.S. Department of Justice

America's White Majority on the Way Out
During the next half-century, the white majority that has long dominated American society will evaporate, with whites becoming a minority some time shortly after 2050. While the percentage of blacks in the population is expected to remain fairly steady, the number of Hispanics is growing rapidly, with Hispanics expected to be the nation's largest minority group by 2005.

These demographic changes are used frequently by hate groups to strike fear into whites' hearts and to argue that America is not the country it once was. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

'Separate But Equal' Seen as Acceptable
The logic of the Supreme Court's famous rejection of "separate but equal" doctrines has clearly been lost on much of the generation of Americans now aged 18-29. This is especially true for whites and the less educated, well over half of whom are not concerned with a segregated society, given equal opportunities.

But almost half of younger blacks also share the view that racial separation is acceptable. This attitude is reflected, among other ways, in the stark segregation typically found in campus sororities and fraternities. Source: NAACP/Hamilton College