Racial disparities in social and economic outcomes exist in all parts of the United States. Black Americans make about 62 cents for every dollar earned by white Americans. Black Americans are also twice as likely to be unemployed and considerably more likely to live in poverty.
In some places, these disparities are even more pronounced. In many of the worst states for black Americans, there are opportunities to get a good job, earn good pay, and buy a home in a good community. However, these opportunities are not uniformly accessible across racial lines. Based on an examination of a number of socio-economic measures, 24/7 Wall St. identified the worst states for black Americans.
According to Dr. Valerie Wilson, Program Director on Race and Ethnicity in the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, “You’re never going to find a state or city where the outcome for blacks are better than for whites.” For centuries, there have been stark differences in the conditions and opportunities black Americans have faced.
The Civil Rights Movement led to hopes that racial inequality would soon end. The movement led to a series of reforms, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other legislation, known as the “Great Society.” Over the following 50 years, however, further advances have been modest at best.
According to Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Senior Director of the Economic Department at the NAACP Financial Freedom Center, “It’s one thing to end segregation, but it’s another thing to talk about billions of dollars of investment.” When the United States invested in a middle class in the 1940s and 1950s, it was in a white middle class, explained Asante-Muhammad. However, the country was “never willing to do that same type of investment to create a middle class that would be inclusive of African Americans.”
The effects of this unwillingness to invest in the black community are clear in the racial economic outcome gaps. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, the national jobless rate for November was 5.8% nationwide. Among white Americans, the figure was 4.9%. Among black Americans it was 11.1%.
Segregation also creates different communities with different social services. The quality of schools, property values, the quality of services available, and the quality of food are all “legacies of racially segregated neighborhoods in this country,” said Wilson. Six of the worst states were home to nearly half of the 30 most segregated U.S. cities, according to a University of Michigan Institute for Social Research study on racial segregation in large metropolitan areas.
Few factors do more to improve people’s livelihoods than access to good jobs. High employment rates contribute to higher incomes, better health insurance coverage, as well as lower poverty rates. In eight of the worst states for black Americans, the difference between black unemployment rates and that of the whole workforce was higher than the national difference. Black Americans in these states also tended to have higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and lower educational attainment rates than both their white peers and black residents in other states.
The obstacles facing black Americans in the United States begin in early childhood — and they have long-lasting effects. Educational outcomes among African American children in five of the worst states for black Americans were identified by the foundation as worse than the average for African-American children nationwide.
Nationally, less than one in five black adults had attained at least a bachelor’s degree as of last year, versus a rate of nearly one in three among the white population. While the percentage of black adults with at least a bachelor’s degree in some of the states on our list was relatively high, the education gap between black and white state residents was larger than the national gap in nine of the worst states.
Although higher education leads to higher employment and better wages, it “does not eliminate inequality,” said Wilson. The unemployment rate among college-educated black Americans is still about twice that of college-educated white Americans.
Of course, there is no single solution to job inequality. Even highly educated black Americans cannot overcome centuries of segregation and outright discrimination. Both Wilson and Asante-Muhammad pointed out that many people are hired because they know someone, for example. If black Americans are not part of a particular social network, their chances of getting hired at a particular job are smaller. For people who have been historically segregated, four years of elite schooling is not the same thing as “having generation after generation that can connect you to different opportunities through friends and family,” Asante-Muhammad explained.
Inequalities in economic outcomes also persist. A typical black household made just 62.3% of the median income of white households in 2013. Among the worst states, differences in income and poverty were nearly all worse than the national difference. In some states, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, the median income of black households was roughly half that of white households.
Source: KSDK | Thomas C. Frohlich, Alexander Kent, Alexander E.M. Hess, Douglas A. McIntyre and Ashley C. Allen, 24/7 Wall Street