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Blacks' Financial, Educational Gains Slowed During 1970's

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Washington--As black leaders prepared last week for a march on Washington to mark the 20th anniversary of the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report concluding that the economic and educational progress of blacks slowed down in the middle 1970's.

The report, "America's Black Population: 1970 to 1982," is a compilation of statistics from the 1980 census, current Census Bureau surveys, and other government reports. It is the first of a series of such reports on the nation's racial-minority populations planned by the agency.

The economic and educational status of many blacks improved considerably after 1970. But the report said some of the economic gains were reversed by the recession of 1974.

'Census Findings'

Nonetheless, overall progress was made in educational attainment. Blacks stayed in school longer at the end of the decade than they had earlier. Enrollment rates for blacks and whites aged 7 to 15 were both 99 percent at the beginning of the 1980's, according to the report. And the proportion of high-school graduates increased from 53 percent to 79 percent between 1970 and 1982.

Moreover, the number of blacks in college doubled during that period, from about 500,000 to about 1 million, but most of the increase took place in the early part of the decade, the report said. Blacks made up 11 percent of the population in 1981, compared to 7 percent in 1970.'

In 1970, according to the report, 15 percent of blacks in the 25-to-34 age group had completed at least one year of college, compared to 31 percent of whites in that age group. In 1982, the report noted, "the disparity had been narrowed significantly"--36 percent of blacks in the age group had completed some college, compared to 46 percent of the whites.

According to the census figures, the median income of black married couples increased 6.9 percent between 1971 and 1981, but the median income for all black families dropped 8.3 percent over the period. The average family income dropped 5.2 percent between 1980 and 1981, according to the report.

The report said the disparity between the income of all blacks and the income of married blacks is a re-sult of the increase in the number of families headed by single women, the report said. The median income for female-headed households was $7,510--or about 38 percent of the median income of black families with two adults present.

The proportion of black families supported solely by a woman increased during the 12 years of the survey. About 28 percent of the 4.9 million black families were headed by women in 1970; by 1982, almost 41 percent of the 6.4 million families were headed by women. The proportion of black children living with only one parent increased from 32 percent to 49 percent, it noted.

The number of children who are being raised in single-parent households could further erode the gains being made by blacks, the report indicated.

The conclusions of the census report appeared to corroborate the findings of a recent report by the Washington-based Center for Social Policy.

The Center's report concluded that two decades of progress in civil rights and education have not brought economic equality for blacks. The report blamed the problem on the increase in the number of black families headed by single women.

The two reports also could intensify criticisms of the Reagan Administration's domestic policies.

A "rainbow coalition" of civil- rights and women's groups was scheduled to march last weekend to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to protest the civil-rights and education policies of the Reagan Administration. Mr. King made his famous speech on the steps of the memorial in 1963.

Education is the Key

In a related development, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell told a group of black government officials and students in Washington earlier this month that education is the key to reducing the high unemployment rate among black youths.

Speaking to the National Association of Blacks Within Government, the Secretary called education "the new raw material" that assures economic success.

"The key is to study in fields in which you'll have a good chance to get a job," Mr. Bell advised the students attending the program. "All we need to do for minority youths is to give them a chance, is help them develop a positive, 'can-do' attitude."

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