Joe Biden fact-checking on black employment, health insurance and wealth

President Joe Biden has sought to strengthen his outreach to black voters as polls show him with lower-than-usual support within that demographic.

In his May 19 commencement address at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, a historically black institution, Biden touted the achievements for black Americans that he said had been achieved during his presidency.

Today, a record number of black Americans have jobs, health insurance and more (wealth) than ever before, Biden said.

Both Biden and former President Donald Trump have prioritized reaching out to black voters as the presidential race continues to be close and as some polls show the black vote could be won this fall.

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Here, we examine the data on each part of Biden’s statement.

Biden aims for black employment data to be strong

When reached for comment, the White House pointed PolitiFact to federal data on the number of black Americans employed. That number peaked at just under 21 million in March 2023, during the Biden presidency, though it has declined since then. In May 2024, the most recent month with available data, black employment was 20.6 million.

But Biden’s reference to the record number of black Americans in work is not the most guiding metric, because the population grows over time, potentially increasing employment numbers even in the absence of economic growth.

A more important metric is one that adjusts for population: the employment-to-population ratio for people 20 and older.

The black employment-to-population ratio for people 20 and older reached 63% during Biden’s tenure. The only time it was higher since 1972, when the statistics were first collected, was in the late 1990s, when it peaked at around 65%.

Biden is eligible for high levels of health insurance coverage

This is accurate in raw numbers and percentages.

KFF, a Washington, DC-based group that studies health care policy, collected Census Bureau data on health insurance rates of black Americans. KFF’s analysis found that the black uninsured rate fell to 10% in 2022, the last complete year with available data. This is a record low.

The rate of uninsured blacks is significantly lower now than it was before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, which provided government subsidies for buying insurance plans and allowed states to expand coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program . After three years of modest black insurance coverage rates under then-President Donald Trump, rates rose again under Biden in 2021 and 2022.

Various data on profits in black wealth

Biden said black Americans now have more (wealth) than ever, and we’ve rated a similar claim half-truth because racial wealth gap data show mixed results for the past 35 years, the period with the data available.

One way to determine the racial wealth gap is to measure the wealth of black households compared to the wealth of white households. This is calculated by dividing the median total wealth for black households by the median total wealth for white households.

The white-to-white wealth ratio narrowed modestly in 2022, the most recent data available, as reported by the Federal Reserve. However, white families had far more wealth than black families. In 2022, for every $100 the average white household had, the average black household had $15.75. That’s the most since 2001, when black households had $15.79, but still only one-sixth the level of whites.

Another way the Federal Reserve measures the racial wealth gap is the difference in the absolute dollar value of wealth between white and non-white households. By this measure, the racial wealth gap widened in 2022.

The median absolute wealth in 2022 dollars for white households was $285,000 and just under $45,000 for black households, the Federal Reserve reported.

Both ways of measuring the racial wealth gap are legitimate, Jonathan Welburn, a senior economics fellow at the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan research organization, told PolitiFact in January.

Welburn and other Rand researchers estimated in a May 2023 article that it would take trillions of dollars to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black Americans.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear what improvements in black wealth can be traced to Biden’s policies.

The Federal Reserve report said home equity, investment income and business or self-employment were the main drivers of black income growth from 2019 to 2022. But other factors that helped narrow the wealth gap preceded the presidency The Bidens.

The report said that during this period, which intersected with the COVID-19 pandemic, incomes for non-white households were supported by temporarily extended government benefits such as unemployment insurance and food stamps. Stimulus controls were another pandemic-era lifeline for black Americans. Congress and the Trump administration approved these programs, and Biden continued them.

from Louis Jacobson, PolitiFact staff writer. PolitiFact Staff Writer Sara Swann contributed to this report.

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