Special Report

Black and White Inequality in All 50 States

Detailed Findings and Methodology

The differences in imprisonment might be the most shockingly unequal outcome of ongoing race-related disparities in the United States. While 275 out of every 100,000 While Americans are incarcerated, 1,408 out of every 100,000 black Americans are, resulting in a black incarceration rate that is over five times as high as the white incarceration rate.

Many underlying causes contribute to the ongoing racial inequality in the United States — and mostly they are interconnected. Higher poverty often leads to less education, poorer health outcomes, and more crime.

Those who are incarcerated are less likely to be able to find employment. Harvard professor of sociology Devah Pager said of the relationship between black incarceration and employment: “The criminal justice system really casts a shadow over all black men and strengthens that association between blackness and criminality in a way that affects the entire black population.“ This phenomenon is not limited to those with a record. “Being black in America today is sort of like having a felony conviction in terms of how employers view these applicants,“ Pager added.

Another way inequality tends to be a self-perpetuating cycle is education. In the United States, a large share of public school funding comes from local property taxes. African Americans are about five times as likely to live in poverty and in high poverty neighborhoods as white Americans. For this reason, they are also far more likely to attend underfunded schools. The effects of attending schools with meaningfully different quality as a result of simply growing up in a particular neighborhood can affect people throughout their lives.

To review black and white racial inequality in all 50 states, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of 10 measures to assess racial gaps in achievement and access to resources and opportunities in each state. A index score was constructed based on the gap between black and white Americans for each measure. Ranking states based on racial gaps in various socioeconomic measures highlights the states with the largest disparities between racial groups, and not just the states with the worst socioeconomic climates for whites and blacks overall.

The index includes data on median household income, poverty, high school and bachelor’s educational attainment, and homeownership rate for whites and blacks from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. Data on white and black 2016 unemployment came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Incarceration rates for 2014 and felony disenfranchisement rates were included and came from the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit dedicated to criminal justice reform. Infant mortality rates for 2014 and age-adjusted mortality rates for 2015 came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All data are for the most recent year available.

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