There are 1.5 million African-American men between the ages of 24 and 54, the critical earnings age range, missing daily from American life because of mass incarceration, higher death rates and overseas military deployment, according to a report released by The New York Times.
The study, headlined “1.5 million Black Men, Missing From Daily Life,” notes, however, the gender gap doesn’t exist in childhood: “There are roughly as many African-American boys as girls, but the imbalance begins to appear among teenagers and continues to widen through the 20s and peaks in the 30s. It persists through adulthood.”
The report, on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times, indicates that higher imprisonment rates account for the loss of almost 600,000 black men, which is the equivalent to 1 in 12 black men being locked up compared to 1 in every 60 nonblack men behind bars.
There is also a higher mortality rate among black men, leading to 900,000 fewer prime-age black men than women.
Homicide plays a significant role. It reportedly is the leading cause of death for young black men. They also die from heart disease and accidents more often than other demographic groups, the report stated.
The newspaper published the study a few weeks after Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, reported that most college-educated black women will never marry.
The studies follow a period in the 1980s and 1990s when some black women claimed they never wanted to marry. That attitude has changed as some have gotten older.
The largest proportions of missing black men is in the South, parts of the Midwest and in East Coast cities. The smallest proportions are in the West.
In New York, there are 118, 000 fewer black men, in Chicago, there are 45,000 fewer men and in Philadelphia, there are 36,000 fewer men, according to the NYT.
The Times began looking at this issue following last year’s deadly shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The St. Louis suburb has become a laboratory showing how police, prosecutorial and judicial racism affect black men. In Ferguson, there are 60 men for every 100 black women, the report found.
The study, however, doesn’t address the issue of triage, which is pervasive in the black community. Women who are heads of home push out their teenage sons to make it on their own while at the same time, raising their daughters by keeping them at home, making sure they see physicians, finish school and get jobs.
That’s what happened to Calvin McCloud, who grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighborhood on the city’s near North Side. His mother kicked him out of the house at 19 over a rent dispute.
McCloud, who suffered a heart attack when he was five and who was a disability recipient, was homeless for four months and went without eating for 22 days at one point.
In desperation, he would go to his mother’s house when she wasn’t home and begged his younger sister, who still lived home, to give him cans of food to take with him so he could eat.
It is not known how much these parental practices exacerbate the disappearance of black men, but licensed mental health practitioners know this familial phenomenon exists though it may not have been formally studied in those exact terms.
The Daily Mail, a London newspaper, published a report in 2009 that found that boys who are abandoned by their parents join street gangs so they have some sort of a family and protection. Street gangs, however, can be dangerous as many members are hunted by rival gangs and by the police and are beaten, shot and murdered.
There is, however, a bright note. Since the 1990s, death rates among black men have dropped more than rates for other groups for both homicide and HIV-related deaths. Yet the prison population continues to soar as does the unemployment rate for black men 20 years old and older.
There are more missing men in the U.S. then there are African-American men living in New York City — or Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Boston combined, the report said.