The Worst Cities for Black Americans

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10. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA
> Pct. residents black:
7.0%
> Population: 169,993
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 54.9%
> Black unemployment rate: 24.0%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 4.9%

Based on a range of socioeconomic factors, Waterloo-Cedar Falls is the 10th worst urban area for black Americans. The metro area is at once relatively difficult to live in as a black person, and relatively favorable for white people. For example, the median income for black households was equal to less than 56% of income for a typical white household, which at $54,802 was slightly lower than the national median but still higher than in most metro areas.

While the Waterloo area labor market is relatively strong overall, black residents clearly do not have the same job opportunities as their white peers. The unemployment rate among black residents of 24% — the sixth highest among black city-populations — is in stark contrast with the white unemployment rate of just 3.9% — one of the lowest such rates.

9. Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
> Pct. residents black:
5.0%
> Population: 611,549
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 57.1%
> Black unemployment rate: 10.6%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 4.2%

The more than 30,000 Des Moines residents identifying as black make up just 5% of the population. However, as Wilson suggested, African Americans in communities with relatively small black populations may be even worse off. In the Des Moines area, racial disparities are indeed especially pervasive. Just 33% of black households are owned by their occupants, for example, versus the homeownership rate of 72.2% among white families. Also, while 38.0% of white adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, 20.5% of black area adults have the equivalent education.

Despite the difficulties facing Des Moines black communities, the area’s black unemployment rate of 10.6% was lower than the national black jobless rate of 13.2% — one of only three of the 10 worst cities for African Americans with a black unemployment rate not exceeding the national rate. Still, the black jobless rate was several times higher than the 4.2% jobless rate among white residents, itself one of the lowest in the country.


8. Kankakee, IL
> Pct. residents black:
14.9%
> Population: 111,375
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 48.7%
> Black unemployment rate: 20.6%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 8.1%

More than one in five black workers in Kankakee is unemployed. The black unemployment rate exceeds 20% in only 16 other U.S. cities, three of them among the worst cities for African Americans. Lack of job opportunities likely contribute to a higher poverty rate among black residents. At nearly 40%, the poverty rate among black residents is not only far higher than the comparable rate for white residents of 7.3%, but also one of the highest in the nation. A typical black Kankakee household earns $31,119 annually, lower than the median annual income for black households nationwide, and less than half the median income for white Kankakee households.

The Kankakee metro area is about an hour’s drive from Chicago. It is also one of four metro areas located in Illinois on this list.