Special Report

The Most Segregated Cities in America

Click image to enlarge


5. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 72.2% (453,524)
> Black population: 46.9% (627,814)
> Black poverty rate: 25.5% (156,810)
> White poverty rate: 9.4% (57,126)

An estimated 72.2% of the Black population in the Memphis metropolitan area live in neighborhoods where more than half of the residents are also Black, far more than the 19.5% national share. Segregated Black neighborhoods in racially divided cities often lack access to education and employment opportunities and are more likely to struggle with poverty than white neighborhoods.

In Memphis, just 17.7% of adults in majority-Black neighborhoods have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 36.6% of adults in majority-white neighborhoods — one of the larger gaps in college attainment of any metropolitan area. The income gap between Black and white households in Memphis is just over $33,000, and 26.7% of residents of Black neighborhoods live in poverty — nearly three times the 9.5% poverty rate in primarily white neighborhoods.

Click image to enlarge


4. Albany, GA
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 72.9% (57,680)
> Black population: 53.3% (79,171)
> Black poverty rate: 32.9% (24,969)
> White poverty rate: 12.6% (7,668)

Albany is one of four Georgia metro areas to rank among the most segregated cities. An estimated 72.9% of Black residents live in predominantly Black neighborhoods, the third largest share of any metro area nationwide and more than three times the 19.5% national rate.

In Albany neighborhoods where more than half of the population is Black, 35.4% of residents live in poverty, far more than the 25.3% comparable national figure and the 15.6% poverty rate for majority-white neighborhoods in the metro area. Similarly, 15.2% of the labor force in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Albany is unemployed, far more than the 10.1% comparable national figure and the 7.0% unemployment rate in majority-white neighborhoods in the metro area.

Click image to enlarge


3. Jackson, MS
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 74.0% (222,198)
> Black population: 50.3% (300,415)
> Black poverty rate: 25.0% (71,969)
> White poverty rate: 8.3% (22,354)

An estimated 74.0% of Black residents in Jackson, Mississippi, live in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black, more than 3.5 times the national figure. Segregation can contribute to racial disparities in urban areas, and in Jackson, Black residents are more than three times as likely to live in poverty as white residents.

Mississippi has a long history of state-sanctioned segregation and was still litigating issues related to segregation and the Brown v. Board of Education decision up until several years ago. As recently as 2017, a school district in Cleveland, Mississippi — roughly two hours northwest of Jackson — conceded to integrate its two racially divided high schools and two middle schools into one high school and one middle school after 50 years of litigation.

Click image to enlarge


2. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 74.6% (191,710)
> Black population: 16.3% (256,974)
> Black poverty rate: 31.5% (80,193)
> White poverty rate: 8.0% (90,079)

Like many Rust Belt cities, Milwaukee’s current segregation patterns can be traced back to discriminatory appraisal maps drawn up by the Home Owners Loan Corporation. Neighborhoods just north of downtown Milwaukee, such as Halyard Park, Hillside, and Haymarket were deemed hazardous for investment, with assessors citing the area’s African American population as a threat to property values.

Today, 74.6% of Black residents in the Milwaukee metro area live in neighborhoods where the majority of residents are Black, compared to 19.5% of Black Americans living in majority-Black neighborhoods nationwide. An estimated 30.5% of residents in majority-Black neighborhoods in Milwaukee live below the poverty line, nearly four times the 7.8% poverty rate for majority-white neighborhoods.

Click image to enlarge


1. Pine Bluff, AR
> Black pop. in Black neighborhoods: 80.8% (35,778)
> Black population: 48.7% (44,281)
> Black poverty rate: 27.7% (10,683)
> White poverty rate: 15.1% (5,738)

Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was the site of a student sit-in movement in 1963. Today, Pine Bluff is the most segregated metro area in the country. An estimated 80.8% of the Black population of Pine Bluff live in predominantly Black neighborhoods, more than four times the 19.5% national figure.

Although segregation often exacerbates racial inequality, Pine Bluff is one of America’s poorest cities and has relatively small achievement gaps between white and Black neighborhoods. For example, Pine Bluff is one of only two metro areas in which a larger share of residents have a bachelor’s degree in Black neighborhoods than white neighborhoods.