Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans


To determine the 15 worst cities for black Americans, 24/7 Wall St. created an index consisting of eight measures to assess race-based gaps in socioeconomic outcomes in each of the nation’s metropolitan areas. Creating the index in this way ensured that cities were ranked on the differences between black and white residents and not on absolute levels of socioeconomic development.

For each measure, we constructed an index of the gaps between black and white Americans. The index was standardized using interdecile normalization so outliers in the data did not skew results. We excluded metro areas where black residents comprised less than 5% of the population or where data limitations made comparisons between racial groups impossible.

Within the index, we considered 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey on median household income, poverty, adult high school and bachelor’s degree attainment, homeownership, and unemployment rates for each racial group. All ACS data are five-year estimates.

Data on incarceration by race are for 2017 and came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These statistics were adjusted for population using one-year ACS data. Because states, rather than metro areas, are responsible for the prison population, incarceration rates are for the state where the metro area is located.

If a metro area spans more than one state, we used the state in which the metro area’s principal city is located. Using data on age-adjusted mortality rates by race for each U.S. county from 2013-2017 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and boundary definitions from the Census Bureau, we calculated mortality rates at the metro level. Incarceration and mortality rates are per 100,000 residents.

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