Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans

Areas with smaller black populations still have higher incarceration rates among black residents, Wilson added. This means the disproportionate incarceration, particularly among black males, “is going to affect an even larger percentage of the population there, even though the population itself isn’t as large as it is in some other places,” she explained.

Higher incarceration rates are just one of several factors that both feed further disparities and stem from a range of structural social problems. “Education, unemployment, wages, income, all of that affects your ability to build wealth,” Wilson said. “If one of those things isn’t working, it just sort of ripples into each of those other areas.”

In addition to income inequality between black and white Americans, wealth inequality helps perpetuate racial inequalities. Wealth — the value of property and financial assets — frequently passes from one generation to the next. African Americans, who have historically been prohibited from home and land ownership, are therefore at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to inherited wealth. For black families, “each generation essentially starts from zero and so as that happens across generations, that gap continues to persist,” Wilson said.

Just over 84% of African American adults have at least a high school diploma nationwide, versus the attainment rate of 92% for white Americans. The black population in only one of the 10 cities on this list has a high school attainment rate that exceeded the nationwide rate for black Americans. In no city was the black high school attainment rate higher than the white high school attainment rate. Similarly, the black unemployment rates in all of the worst cities for African Americans exceeded the white jobless rates. Only three of the 10 cities had black unemployment rates lower than the nationwide unemployment rate for black Americans of 13.2%. By contrast, the unemployment rate among white members of the workforce is 5.8%.

A good education is key to economic mobility, although it is less of a guarantee for African Americans than it is for others. “An African American with a college education definitely earns more than an African American without a college education, but they still earn less than a white person who has a college education,” Wilson said, adding that raising educational attainment rates is not enough to eliminate racial disparities.

These are the worst cities for black Americans.

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