Nearly 50 percent of the young black men in Ferguson, Missouri have gone “missing” from their communities thanks to prison, premature death, and other social dysfunctions, according to an analysis by economist Stephen Bronars for Forbes.
Ferguson is currently being vilified after a federal report slammed the city’s police department for violating blacks’ civil rights and employing only four black officers on a force of more than 50. Now, however, an economist has published a stark analysis of the demographics in Ferguson, revealing that one reason the town infamous for Michael Brown’s death has so few black police is that half of its young men have disappeared from society altogether.
According to Ferguson’s federal census data, Bronars notes, there are 1,182 black women in Ferguson between the ages of 25 and 34. In comparison, however, there are only 577 black men within the same age range. The gap is smaller but still vast in other age ranges; black men are about 40 percent below the numbers they should have for the 20-24 and 35-54 age ranges.
There are peripheral factors, Bronars says, that play a small role in creating the gap. Black men in the military aren’t counted in Ferguson’s census data, and a marginally higher number of them have died for one reason or another.
The biggest causes of the disappearing black men are representative of crippling social dysfunctions in Ferguson. Hundreds of men from the city are in prison, while others fall through the cracks of census data due to problems like homelessness and crippling substance abuse.
Law enforcement is a young man’s job (only 13 percent of police are over 55), and with so much dysfunction in the black community, Bronars says, altering the racial makeup of the police department will be far harder than it seems.
“As Ferguson strives to achieve greater racial diversity in its police force, one of the first problems civic leaders will face is a shortage of young African American men from Ferguson who can fill positions in the police department,” he writes. “Many of the socioeconomic problems that have caused these young men to be absent from their community will also make it difficult, if not impossible, for these men to pursue a career in law enforcement.”
Ferguson, Bronars points out, is only a more extreme case of what exists in cities around the country. In nearby St. Louis, 24 percent of black men have disappeared from the community. Across all of the nation’s large cities, the number is about 18 percent.