Special Report

The Worst States for Black Americans

View of downtown Mobile, Alabama
Source: Thinkstock

10. Alabama
> Pct. residents black: 26.8% (6th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 49.7% (5th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,417 per 100,000 (25th lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 10.6% (12th highest)

More than one-quarter of Alabama residents are black, the sixth largest share of all states and more than double the national proportion. Many states with higher proportions of black residents are Southern states, but do not necessarily have larger racial disparities than others.

Social and economic disparities between racial groups lead to unequal health outcomes. For example, the mortality rate for black babies nationwide is twice as high as that for white babies. In Alabama, the disparity is even greater. While the white infant mortality rate in the state of six deaths for every 1,000 live births is among the highest in the nation, it is less than half the black infant mortality rate. At 14.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, Alabama’s black infant mortality rate is the highest of all states.

Kansas, USA, freight trains, elevated view
Source: Thinkstock

9. Kansas
> Pct. residents black: 5.9% (22nd lowest)
> Black homeownership rate: 34.9% (23rd lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,734 per 100,000 (14th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 6.6% (17th lowest)

Kansas has one of the lower black unemployment rates in the nation at 6.6%. However, unemployment is still higher among the state’s black labor force than among white Kansas workers. At 4.1%, the state’s white unemployment rate is not even especially low compared with white jobless rates in other states.

The likelihood of imprisonment is grossly higher for black Americans than for white U.S. residents, and this is especially the case in Kansas. While the state’s white incarceration rate of 246 prisoners per 100,000 white state residents is lower than the national white incarceration rate, the likelihood of going to prison as a black person in Kansas is higher than it is nationwide. For every 100,000 black Kansas residents, more than 1,700 are in prison, higher than the nationwide black incarceration rate of 1,408 per 100,000 black Americans.

Skyline of Norfolk Virginia at night
Source: Thinkstock

8. Virginia
> Pct. residents black: 19.2% (9th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 45.5% (7th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,386 per 100,000 (22nd lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 7.9% (21st lowest)

Certain policies and implicit racial bias can contribute to racial inequity in a community or across a state. Socioeconomic inequities are perhaps the best illustration of how racial disparities can grow. Fewer than 20% of black Virginia residents live in poverty, one of the lower black poverty rates compared with other states but still more than double the state’s white poverty rate of 8.7%. The education level is a major determinant of a population’s financial prosperity. More than 40% of white Virginia adults have at least a college degree versus 22.8% of black Virginia adults. While black Virginians are more likely than African Americans across the nation to have a college degree, the difference compared to the white educational attainment in Virginia is one of the largest of all states.

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