Inglewood Tops Report on U.S. Black Communities

Times Staff Writer

Inglewood officials are glowing over a new U.S. census report that says black residents there are better educated and employed at a higher rate--and enjoy higher incomes--than those in any other major black community in the nation. The officials and civic boosters say the report only confirms what they have known all along, despite a widespread perception of Inglewood as a troubled minority city.

"The report is no surprise to me or other people who live here," Mayor Edward Vincent said. "We know we have a solid, middle-class community in which people are proud to live and raise their families. There are a lot of developers knocking at our door too, and they wouldn't want to come in if they didn't believe that this is a good place for profitable investments."

'A True Melting Pot'

Roger Scott, manager of the Inglewood/Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, described the city as "a true American melting pot." Among attractions for middle-class blacks, he said, are a good housing supply, including luxury condominiums and apartments built in recent years, a high level of city services and the city's proximity to downtown Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport, the Westside and the beach cities.

Vincent said the negative image that some people have of Inglewood stems from turmoil in the 1970s, when court-ordered school integration spurred a rapid transformation from a virtually all-white bedroom community to a city with a predominantly minority population. The city estimates that Inglewood's population of about 100,000 is now about 55% black, 25% Latino, 15% white and 5% Asian and others.

Social and economic problems still persist, Vincent acknowledged, but he said the federal report should help dispel "outdated perceptions" and focus more attention on the "enormous progress" Inglewood has made in this decade.

Low Test Scores

Among problems often cited are low test scores in the public school system, which is about 95% minority, a high percentage of families on welfare (25% of those with children in the schools) and the city's continuing struggle with street gangs, drug dealing and other crimes. However, officials are quick to point out, the city's overall rate for major crimes has dropped 26% in the last five years to below the median level for 31 California cities with populations over 100,000.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census report--based on an analysis of 1980 statistics and released this month--found that among 62 U.S. cities with black populations of more than 50,000, Inglewood's black community had:

- The highest percentage of high-school graduates among adults 25 years of age or older: 84%, compared to an average of 51% for blacks in the other cities surveyed.

Figures for other California cities were Los Angeles (black population 504,301), 64%; Oakland (159,351), 66%; San Francisco (86,190), 62%; San Diego (77,508), 72%, and Compton (60,874), 66%. The lowest percentages nationally were Macon, Ga., and Miami, both with about 37%.

In percentages of blacks who had completed four or more years of college, Inglewood's 14% beat the other five California cities. By comparison, San Francisco and San Diego were at 11%, Los Angeles and Oakland, 10%, and Compton, 6%. It was exceeded nationally by only three cities, with Greensboro, N.C., coming in at 18%.

Inglewood's score in the educational column, officials said, was boosted by the large number of black doctors, lawyers, business executives and other professionals who have settled in the community.

- The highest rates of involvement in the local labor force: 79% of men and 70% of women 16 years of age or older either working or actively seeking employment, compared to averages of 67% and 53%, respectively, for the cities included in the report.

Inglewood's percentage of black families with no workers, 10%, was the lowest among the 62 cities. Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco had 22%, San Diego, 15% and Compton, 17%.

- The highest per capita income for blacks in 1979, $6,980, compared to an average of $4,545. Per capita black income was $5,994 in San Francisco, $5,768 in Oakland, $5,463 in Los Angeles, $5,340 in San Diego and $4,685 in Compton. Inglewood's median income for black households--$15,662--was topped only by Flint, Mich., which had $17,194.

- The lowest percentage of blacks below the poverty level: 16% of individuals, compared to a 30% average for all cities surveyed, and 14% of families, compared to a 27% average.

In black families below the poverty level, San Diego had 20% and the other California cities had about 24%. Nationally, East St. Louis, Ill., had the highest poverty rate, 40%.

Overall, the census report said, the nation's 26.5 million blacks made substantial progress in some areas but fell behind in others during the last decade.

In education, the proportion of blacks 25 years of age or older with high school diplomas rose from 31% to 51%, while the number with college degrees increased from 4% to 8%.

Economically, median incomes for black families nearly doubled to $12,600, but when that figure is adjusted for inflation, the net gain was only 5% for the decade. Blacks accounted for only 12% of the nation's total population, but represented 28% of all individuals below the poverty level. And the proportion of black families headed by single women rose sharply from 28% to 38%.

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