Economic Development
Harrah's Cherokee Casino in North CarolinaHarrah's Cherokee Casino in North Carolina

The need for economic development in Indian Country is pressing, and gaming casinos won't meet the total need by themselves. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, "Casino wealth transformed a few small Indian communities, but most Indian reservations remain islands of extreme poverty in an ocean of national wealth."

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, only 66 percent of Native American men are working in the labor force, compared to 71 percent of all U.S. men. The comparable figure for women is 57 percent of Native women in the workforce, as opposed to 58 percent of all women.

Unemployment figures are calculated differently. They measure the percent of those "looking for work" who can't find a job. Unemployment rates on some reservations are astounding — one reservation on the Great Plains had an unemployment rate of 81 percent for years.

Casinos are not the only path to economic development.

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Nationally, American Indians are less likely to be employed in management or professional positions compared to the population as a whole. They also earn less. The median earnings of Native Americans in 2000 were $28,900 for men. The comparable figure for all men was $37,100. Native women earned a median of $22,800 compared to $27,200 for all women.

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