The Worst Cities for Black Americans

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5. Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
> Black population: 15.2%
> Black median income: 46.1% of white income
> White unemployment: 3.6%
> Black unemployment: 17.3%

Niles-Benton Harbor metropolitan area residents tend to have lower incomes compared to Americans overall, but the severity of poverty still takes a greater toll on the city’s black residents. White households in the metro area typically earn roughly $52,000 annually, while the median among black households is barely $24,000. More than 40% of Niles-Benton Harbor black residents live at or below the poverty line, while just 10.7% of the area’s white residents do.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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In addition to earning less, black residents are also far more likely to be unemployed, which helps explain the major income differences. Just 3.6% of the area’s white labor force are unemployed, while 17.3% of the area’s black labor force are.

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4. Racine, WI
> Black population: 11.1%
> Black median income: 34.6% of white income
> White unemployment: 4.8%
> Black unemployment: 10.7%

While the median annual income for white households in Racine of $62,368 is similar to the median income for white household nationwide of $63,155, the typical black household in the city earns just $21,573 a year, nearly half the median income of black households nationwide of $38,155. The typical black household in the Racine metro area earns just 35 cents for every dollar the typical white household earns, the second largest black-white earnings gap of any city.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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Divisions in income along racial lines are often perpetuated by disparities in educational attainment. In Racine, just 6.8% of black adults have at least a bachelor’s degree — less than half the 20.9% national black college attainment rate and among the smallest shares of any city. Meanwhile, 28.4% of white adults in Racine have a bachelor’s degree.

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3. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
> Black population: 16.6%
> Black median income: 42.2% of white income
> White unemployment: 3.3%
> Black unemployment: 12.4%

One of the biggest problems facing African Americans today is the extremely high and unequal rate at which they are incarcerated. At some point in their lifetimes, 1 in every 3 black males born today can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes. Rejoining society after obtaining a felony record can be extremely difficult, and in Milwaukee — where the typical black household earns just 42% of the white median household income — inequality might be explained in part by racial incarceration disparity.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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In Wisconsin, whites are incarcerated at a rate of 221 for every 100,000 residents each year, slightly below the national white incarceration rate. The black incarceration rate, meanwhile, is 2,542 for every 100,000 black residents, the fifth highest rate of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Peoria, IL
> Black population: 9.3%
> Black median income: 42.7% of white income
> White unemployment: 5.4%
> Black unemployment: 19.3%

The typical black household in the Peoria metro area earns just 43 cents for every dollar a typical white household earns, one of the largest black-white earnings gaps of any city. Differences in income are partially responsible for the large poverty gap in Peoria. While just 8.6% of white residents live below the poverty line, 35.2% of black residents in the city do.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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Systemic income inequality between black and white Americans can contribute to further disparities in education, employment, and health outcomes. The difference in age-adjusted mortality rates of black and white residents in Peoria is one of the largest in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Erie, PA
> Black population: 7.2%
> Black median income: 43.2% of white income
> White unemployment: 4.0%
> Black unemployment: 24.6%

No major metropolitan area has greater racial inequalities across major social and economic outcome measures than Erie, Pennsylvania. An astounding 47% of the black population lives at or below the national poverty line, twice the the already alarming national poverty rate for black Americans of 23.9%, and more than four times the white poverty rate in Erie of 11.9%.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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The stark differences along racial lines in the city are also well reflected by the deep gap in job prospects between white and black residents. Erie’s overall unemployment rate of 5.8% is identical to the national rate. However, just 4.0% of the white labor force is unemployed, while 25% of the black labor force is.