Special Report

Worst States for Black Americans

7. New Jersey
> Pct. residents black:
12.8% (16th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 37.8% (22nd highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,992 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 11.5% (19th highest)

The poverty rate among white residents in New Jersey of 6.4% is well below the national poverty rate of 15.5%. Black residents, however, are more than three times as likely to live in poverty as their white counterparts, with nearly 20% of New Jersey’s African American residents living in poverty. Homeownership rates are usually divided along racial lines, and New Jersey is no exception. Three out of every four homes with white heads of households are owned by their occupants, compared to a black homeownership rate of just 37.8%.

As is the case nationwide, incarceration rates in New Jersey are substantially higher for the African American population than for white residents. Out of every 100,000 black state residents, nearly 1,000 are incarcerated, roughly five times the incarceration rate among white New Jersey residents.

6. Michigan
> Pct. residents black:
13.8% (15th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 40.7% (18th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,169 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 15.9% (2nd highest)

Like the rest of the country, unemployment among black Michigan workers is much higher than among white workers and is but one piece of a much larger entrenched cycle of inequality. Michigan has the second highest black unemployment rate in the country after only Wisconsin. The unemployment rate among the black workforce of 15.9% is far higher than the rate among the state’s white workforce of 5.8%.

Relatively high unemployment rates are partially the result of lower educational attainment. While educational attainment levels are lower than average for both whites and blacks in Michigan, black residents are much less likely to complete high school or earn a bachelor’s degree than their white neighbors. About 92% of white adults in the state have completed at least high school, a significantly larger share than the black high school attainment rate of about 84%. Additionally, while 28.4% of white Michigan adults have a bachelor’s degree, only 16.9% of black residents have similar educational attainment.

5. Florida
> Pct. residents black:
15.5% (12th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 43.7% (14th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,555 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 10.8% (23rd highest)

Driven in part by a relatively high incarceration rate, black Americans in Florida are the most likely to be disenfranchised. Nearly one in four black Florida residents have had their right to vote revoked in some way, the highest proportion in the country. In absolute terms, 520,521 black individuals living in Florida are disenfranchised, also the highest number in the nation.

The infant mortality rate within the black population in Florida, at 11.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, is slightly higher than the nationwide rate of 11.0 deaths per 1,000 births among black American mothers. At the same time, however, the infant mortality rate among the white population in Florida, at 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, is lower than the comparable national figure.

4. Virginia
> Pct. residents black:
18.9% (9th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 46.2% (8th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,418 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 8.2% (12th lowest)

Across the country, median annual income of black households is about $24,000 lower than the median income of white households. The income disparity in Virginian is even greater. Even though black households tend to earn more in Virginia than they do across the country, the typical black household in the state earns about $27,000 less than the typical white household.

Subject to some of the strictest disenfranchisement laws in the country, the black community in Virginia is among the most politically debilitated in the country. Nearly a quarter of a million blacks in the state — roughly a fifth of the black population — are ineligible to exercise their democratic right to vote. Only Florida and Kentucky have a higher share of disenfranchised black residents.