Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans

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10. Rochester, NY
> Black population: 117,757 (10.9%)
> Black median income: $29,084 (48.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 14.8% (black); 5.0% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 31.9% (black); 72.8% (white)

Nationwide, 84.9% of black adults have a high school diploma — 4.4 percentage points below the 89.3% white high school attainment rate. In Rochester, 78.4% of black adults have a high school diploma, 14.0 percentage points below the 92.4% white rate — one of the largest gaps in the country.

People with a high school education are more likely to have higher wages than those without a high school education and are less likely to live in poverty. In Rochester, 34.5% of black residents live in poverty, more than three times the 10.2% white poverty rate. By comparison, nationwide, 25.2% of black Americans live in poverty, over twice the 12.0% white poverty rate.

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9. Springfield, IL
> Black population: 25,010 (11.9%)
> Black median income: $26,572 (42.0% of white income)
> Unemployment: 16.4% (black); 5.5% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 31.6% (black); 75.2% (white)

Springfield is one of several metro areas in central Illinois where disparities in income, education, and other socioeconomic measures are far greater than disparities across the nation as a whole. The median income for black households in Springfield of $26,572 is just 42.0% of the $63,263 figure for white households, the 18th largest gap of any U.S. metro area.

One factor contributing to the income disparity in Springfield is the large gap in unemployment between white and black members of the labor force. While nationwide the black unemployment rate of 11.9% is 6.3 percentage points above the 5.5% white figure, in Springfield, the black unemployment rate of 16.4% is 10.9 percentage points above the 5.5% white figure — one of the largest disparities of any city in the country.

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8. Rockford, IL
> Black population: 36,630 (10.7%)
> Black median income: $27,862 (49.7% of white income)
> Unemployment: 23.8% (black); 7.7% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 31.6% (black); 73.1% (white)

Rockford is a small metro area of approximately 341,000 residents located about 80 miles northwest of Chicago. Some 23.8% of black members of the labor force in Rockford are unemployed, the sixth largest share of any metro area and 16 percentage points above the 7.7% white unemployment rate — the ninth largest disparity of any U.S. city.

The gap in unemployment is one of the contributing factors to other racial inequalities in the area. The typical black household in Rockford earns $27,862 a year, less than half the white median household income of $56,026. Similarly, 37.3% of black residents live in poverty, more than three times the 10.3% white poverty rate.

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7. Peoria, IL
> Black population: 34,326 (9.1%)
> Black median income: $28,019 (46.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 18.1% (black); 5.5% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 32.6% (black); 76.1% (white)

While nationwide 84.9% of black adults have a high school diploma — 4.4 percentage points less than the white high school attainment rate of 89.3% — in Peoria, Illinois, 79.6% of black adults have a high school diploma, 13.4 percentage points below the area’s white high school attainment rate of 92.9%. This is one of the largest such gaps in the country. Those without a high school diploma are more likely to struggle financially, and in Peoria, some 34.5% of black residents live below the poverty line, nearly four times the 9.3% white poverty rate in the metro area.

Owning a home is one of the most effective ways of building long-term wealth and avoiding the cycle of poverty. The economic benefits of homeownership are not enjoyed equally In Peoria, where just 32.6% of African American heads of household own their homes — less than half the 76.1% white homeownership rate.

6. Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
> Black population: 22,567 (14.6%)
> Black median income: $23,540 (45.2% of white income)
> Unemployment: 17.4% (black); 5.6% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 35.7% (black); 75.6% (white)

Less than 15% of Niles area residents are black, but 47.2% of the black population lives in census tracts where at least half of the population is also black — the fifth highest level of segregation of any U.S. metro area. Like in many of the most segregated cities in America, the segregation in Niles has likely lead to significant differences in employment and education opportunities by race and contributed to the vast racial disparities in the metro area.

The typical African American household in the Niles-Benton Harbor metro area earns $23,540 a year, just 45.2% of the white median household income of $52,032 in the city. Income is one of the main determinants of health, and in Niles, some 1,089 in every 100,000 black residents die every year, far more than the corresponding white mortality rate of 797 deaths per 100,000.