Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans

Lighthouse and sailboat, Muskegon, Michigan
Source: Thinkstock

10. Muskegon, MI
> Black population: 13.9%
> Black median income: 40.0% of white income
> White unemployment: 5.0%
> Black unemployment: 23.8%

Muskegon is one of the worst cities for black Americans because of the large gap between the area’s white and black residents in a number of socioeconomic measures.

Muskegon’s annual white unemployment rate of 5.0% is only slightly below the national 2015 unemployment rate of 5.3%. However, 23.8% of the city’s black workforce was unemployed. This 18.8 percentage point difference between the white and black jobless rates is among the greatest of any major metropolitan area.

Rochester, New York river cityscape
Source: Thinkstock

9. Rochester, NY
> Black population: 11.9%
> Black median income: 51.4% of white income
> White unemployment: 4.9%
> Black unemployment: 17.2%

Black Rochester residents are more than three times as likely to live in poverty as white residents, and a typical black city household earns about half as much as the typical white city household. Nationwide, 31.9% of white adults have a college education compared to 20.2% of black adults. In Rochester, 35.1% of white adults in the city have earned a postsecondary degree, while just 12.7% of black adults have.

Like many metropolitan areas with high inequality, Rochester was once a booming industrial center. Manufacturing jobs have historically provided an opportunity for black Americans to work and earn a decent wage without a college education. For this reason, the city’s manufacturing industry downturn may have disproportionately hurt the area’s African American families.

Racine, Wisconsin Reefpoint Marina
Source: Thinkstock

8. Racine, WI
> Black population: 11.5%
> Black median income: 36.0% of white income
> White unemployment: 4.7%
> Black unemployment: 14.0%

Some of the starkest inequalities in the United States can be found in the criminal justice system. Black Americans nationwide are roughly five times more likely to be imprisoned. In Racine, these issues are an even more pronounced. For every 100,000 black metro area residents, 2,542 are imprisoned — 11.5 times the white incarceration rate.

For those who leave prison, becoming gainfully employed and otherwise adjusting to normal life can be challenging. Whether or not the high incarceration rate has meaningfully affected black earnings, the typical black metropolitan household earns about one-third that of the typical white household. The black homeownership rate in Racine of 29.4% is less than half the white homeownership rate of 75.5%.

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