Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

10. Rochester, NY
> Black population: 117,166 (10.9% of total)
> Black median income: $30,146 (48.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 13.9% (Black); 4.4% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 32.2% (Black); 72.7% (white)

Rochester, New York, ranks as the worst city in the Northeastern United States for Black Americans. The typical Black household in the metro area earns about $30,000 a year. Meanwhile, most white area households earn over $60,000 annually. The lower incomes among Black area residents translate to a greater likelihood of financial insecurity. More than one in every three Black Rochester residents live below the poverty line, compared to only about one in every 10 white residents.

Economic disparities in the metro area are attributable in part to disparate educational outcomes produced by one of the most segregated school systems in the country. The Rochester City School district is about 90% Black, while the neighboring suburban school district is about 90% white. Only about 78% of Black adults in Rochester have a high school diploma, compared to over 90% of white adults in the metro area.

Source: coophil / Getty Images

9. Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
> Black population: 22,572 (14.6% of total)
> Black median income: $23,382 (43.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 15.4% (Black); 4.9% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 35.4% (Black); 76.3% (white)

The Niles-Benton Harbor metro area in southwest Michigan has the worst racial income disparities of any metro area in the state — and the ninth worst of any U.S. metro area. The typical Black household in the metro area earns just $23,382 a year, while most area white households earn over $53,000. The income gap along racial lines is due in part to unequal access to jobs. The Black unemployment rate across Niles-Benton Harbor is 15.4% — more than triple the 4.9% jobless rate among the local white labor force.

Higher-income Americans tend to have better access to health care and can afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle. As a result, higher-income Americans typically report better health outcomes than those with lower incomes. In the Niles-Benton Harbor metro area, low incomes appear to be taking a public health toll in the Black community. The age-adjusted death rate among the local Black population is about 35% higher than it is among the local white population.

Source: ghornephoto / Getty Images

8. Peoria, IL
> Black population: 34,279 (9.2% of total)
> Black median income: $28,300 (46.0% of white income)
> Unemployment: 16.8% (Black); 5.0% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 31.7% (Black); 76.2% (white)

Racial segregation contributes to long-term disparity, and the legacy of redlining has made Peoria, Illinois, one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Redlining effectively made it impossible for many Black Americans to secure a mortgage loan in the early and mid-1900s, leading to a low Black homeownership rate — and limiting intergenerational wealth building opportunities with it.

In Peoria, the Black homeownership rate stands at 31.7%, less than half the 76.2% white homeownership rate. Opportunities to build wealth are further limited in Peoria’s Black community by high unemployment. Over the last five years, before the COVID-19 recession, an average of 16.8% of the local Black labor force was unemployed, more than triple the 5.0% white unemployment rate. Partially as a result, Black Peoria residents are more than three times as likely as white residents to live below the poverty line.

Source: RudyBalasko / Getty Images

7. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
> Black population: 290,210 (8.2% of total)
> Black median income: $36,127 (44.0% of white income)
> Unemployment: 9.2% (Black); 3.2% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 25.2% (Black); 75.5% (white)

While white residents of the Twin Cities metro area are financially better off than white Americans nationwide, the area’s Black population is worse off than the Black population nationwide and of course compared to the metro area’s white residents.

For example, the Black poverty rate of 28.3% in the metro area is well above the 24.2% national Black poverty rate. Meanwhile, just 5.9% of white residents in Minneapolis-St. Paul live below the poverty line compared to 11.6% of all white Americans. Similarly, the typical Black household in the area earns just $36,127 a year — about $4,000 below the median income among Black households nationwide. In contrast, the median income among white area households is $82,118, or about $18,000 more than the national median.

Source: pabradyphoto / Getty Images

6. Springfield, IL
> Black population: 24,959 (11.9% of total)
> Black median income: $26,573 (40.5% of white income)
> Unemployment: 16.2% (Black); 4.8% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 29.2% (Black); 75.2% (white)

Springfield, Illinois, is home to some of the worst income inequality along racial lines in the United States. The typical Black household in Illinois’ capital city earns just $26,573 a year. Meanwhile, the typical white household earns $65,650 a year. Additionally, the Black poverty rate in the metro area of 40.9% is about four times greater than the 10.7% white poverty rate.

Higher-income Americans tend to have better access to health care and can afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle. Typically, higher-income Americans report better health outcomes than lower-income Americans. In Springfield, the low incomes appear to be taking a public health toll in the Black community. The age-adjusted death rate among the local Black population is about 21% higher than the rate among the local white population.