Special Report

The Worst States for Black Americans

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Source: Thinkstock

7. Pennsylvania
> Pct. residents black: 11.0% (20th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 42.9% (13th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,810 per 100,000 (11th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 10.5% (15th highest)

Like most of the worst states for black Americans, more than 10% of black Pennsylvania workers are unemployed — double the white unemployment rate. Because individuals with higher levels of education tend to have access to more job opportunities, higher education mostly leads to higher income. However, as is the case virtually without exception throughout the United States, black Pennsylvanians tend to have attained less education than white state residents.

Pennsylvania’s former Gov. Tom Corbett cut education budgets. These cuts disproportionately affected black students, who disproportionately make up student populations in poorer school districts that depend on state funding. Further, according to research published last year, districts at any given poverty level with higher proportions of white students received greater funding than districts with more minority students.

Stamford, Connecticut
Source: Thinkstock

6. Connecticut
> Pct. residents black: 10.6% (21st highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 39.5% (19th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,392 per 100,000 (23rd lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 13.2% (3rd highest)

Connecticut has one of the nation’s most financially well-off populations. However, the prosperity is largely enjoyed by the state’s white residents. While the white poverty rate of 6.1% is the lowest in the country, for example, more than 20% of black Connecticut residents live in poverty. Similarly, the difference of almost $37,000 between the median annual incomes for black and white households, at $44,418 and $81,324 respectively, is the largest of all states.

Segregation underpins many of these inequities and is a major problem in most U.S. areas. Racial segregation is especially pronounced in Connecticut. Not only are highly affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods more common in Connecticut than across the nation, but unlike many other areas, these communities often border extremely poor, predominantly nonwhite neighborhoods.

Detroit, Michigan abandoned building
Source: Thinkstock

5. Michigan
> Pct. residents black: 13.9% (15th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 40.8% (16th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,682 per 100,000 (15th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 11.6% (6th highest)

Based on social and economic gaps between black and white residents, few states are worse for African Americans than Michigan. Gross segregation and inequalities in the Detroit metro area contribute to the state’s poor ranking. By using race to determine home loan eligibility, the FHA deliberately segregated the Detroit area over the course of the mid-20th century. To this day, a wall built in 1940 along 8 Mile Road to separate white and black neighborhoods serves as a reminder of the area’s history of segregation. The wall no longer separates black and white residents, but the city remains one of the most segregated in the country.

Across Michigan, black residents are considerably more likely than white residents to live in poverty. Close to 33% of black people in the state live in poverty versus less than 12% of whites.

Cincinnati, Ohio
Source: Thinkstock

4. Ohio
> Pct. residents black: 12.3% (17th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 34.9% (22nd lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,625 per 100,000 (19th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 10.9% (10th highest)

The share of white adults in Ohio with at least a bachelor’s degree is 27.7%, one of the lowest compared with white adult populations in other states. Still, white Ohioans are considerably more likely to have gone to college than black residents as just 16.4% of black adults in Ohio have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the lowest such rates nationwide. Perhaps due in part to the low educational attainment, black state households tend to earn very low incomes compared to both white Ohio households and black households in other states. The state’s black median household income of less than $30,000 annually is lower than the nationwide black median household income of $36,544 and than the state’s white median household income of $55,448 a year.