Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans

Source: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

5. Danville, IL
> Black population: 10,995 (13.9%)
> Black median income: $23,963 (49.2% of white income)
> Unemployment: 18.8% (black); 6.9% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 31.7% (black); 75.8% (white)

Just 5.3% of black adults in Danville have a bachelor’s degree. This is the fourth lowest share of all metro areas nationwide and nearly one-third the 15.4% college attainment rate for white adults in the metro area — itself one of the lowest shares in the nation. Racial disparities in educational attainment in the United States are tied to other forms of inequality, including the concentration of poverty in nonwhite communities. Those without a college education are far more likely to live below the poverty line than those with a college education, and in Danville, 48.3% of black residents live in poverty — the ninth highest poverty rate nationwide and far more than the 15.2% white poverty rate in the metro area.

Poverty status is one of the clearest determinants of health and life expectancy, and in Danville, health outcomes are far worse for the black population than the white population. For every 100,000 black residents in Danville, 1,208 die each year, the third highest black mortality rate nationwide among metro areas. The white mortality rate in the area is considerably lower, at 923 deaths per 100,000 white residents.

Source: StevenGaertner / Getty Images

4. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
> Black population: 278,802 (7.9%)
> Black median income: $34,174 (43.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 10.3% (black); 3.6% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 25.4% (black); 75.3% (white)

While white residents of the Twin Cities metro area are better off than white Americans nationwide in a number of measures, the area’s black population is worse off by several metrics compared to both the metro area’s white residents and the black population nationwide.

The typical white household in Minneapolis, for example, earns $78,706 a year, over $17,000 more than the $61,363 national figure. Meanwhile, the typical black household in Minneapolis earns $34,174 a year, 43.4% of the median for white households in the area and $4,000 less than the median among black households nationwide.

Source: Jacob Boomsma / Getty Images

3. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA
> Black population: 12,074 (7.1%)
> Black median income: $27,811 (49.2% of white income)
> Unemployment: 19.7% (black); 4.0% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 34.4% (black); 72.3% (white)

While 84.9% of black adults nationwide have a high school diploma — 4.4 percentage points less than the white high school attainment rate of 89.3% — in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metro area, 80.2% of black adults have a high school diploma, 13.4 percentage points below the 93.6% white attainment rate, one of the largest such gaps in the country.

Individuals without a high school education are far more likely to be unemployed than those with greater educational attainment. In the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, 19.7% of black members of the labor force were unemployed as of 2017, 15.7 percentage points above the 4.0% white unemployment rate. By comparison, the 2017 black unemployment rate nationwide of 11.9% was 6.3 percentage points higher than the 5.5% white figure.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

2. Racine, WI
> Black population: 20,797 (10.7%)
> Black median income: $27,658 (43.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 13.1% (black); 5.1% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 30.6% (black); 74.8% (white)

Growing up in poverty presents various socioeconomic challenges that often serve as significant barriers to achieving a high school or postsecondary education, –and those with lower educational attainment are more likely to remain in these conditions.

Just 7.4% of black adults in Racine have a bachelor’s degree — the 12th smallest share of any metro nationwide and 19.3 percentage points less than the 26.7% college attainment rate for white adults in the metro area. Individuals without a bachelor’s degree are more likely to live below the poverty line than those with a college education, and in Racine, 30.8% of black residents live in poverty, nearly four times the corresponding white poverty rate of 8.7%.

Source: Aneese / iStock

1. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
> Black population: 257,895 (16.4%)
> Black median income: $28,928 (43.8% of white income)
> Unemployment: 13.9% (black); 3.9% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 27.8% (black); 68.2% (white)

Milwaukee is one of the many Rust Belt cities where a history of redlining, exclusionary zoning, and discriminatory lending practices have contributed to segregation — that remains today — and to some of the largest racial disparities in income, health, and other socioeconomic measures in the country. While nationwide some 16.8% of black Americans live in predominantly black neighborhoods, 35.2% of black Milwaukee residents do — the 20th largest share of any metro area.

The typical black household in Milwaukee earns just $29,928 a year, 43.8% of the median income of $66,097 among white households. Income is one of the primary correlates to health and life expectancy, and in Milwaukee, 1,020 in every 100,000 black residents die every year — over 300 more deaths per 100,000 than the white mortality rate, one of the largest disparities nationwide.