To determine the 10 worst cities for black Americans, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of eight measures to assess race-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in each metropolitan area, rather than measure the availability of resources and opportunities in the city. Creating the index in this way ensured that states were ranked based on differences between black and white Americans and not levels of socioeconomic development. For each measure, we constructed an index from the gaps between black and white Americans. The index was standardized using interdecile normalization so outliers in the data did not skew results. We excluded metro areas where black residents comprised less than 5% of the population.
To construct the index, we used 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau on median household income, poverty, high school and bachelor’s educational attainment rates, homeownership rates, and unemployment rates. Data on incarceration rates came from The Sentencing Project and are for the most recent available year. Because states, rather than metro areas, are responsible for the prison population, incarceration rates are for the state where the metro area is located. If a metro area spanned more than one state, we used the state in which the metro area’s principal city is located. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we used age-adjusted mortality rates by race for each county in the U.S. from 2009-2013 to calculate mortality rates at the metro level using a variation on the indirect standardization method. Incarceration and mortality rates are per 100,000 residents.
Correction: In an earlier version of this article we incorrectly stated that there were nine measures in our index. In fact, there are only eight.