Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans


To determine the worst cities for Black Americans, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of eight variables measuring racial socioeconomic gaps in each of the nation’s 383 metropolitan areas. For each city we evaluated the gap between white and Black residents in poverty, high school and college education, income, homeownership, unemployment, mortality, and incarceration.

Creating the index in this way means cities are ranked based on the relative differences between Black and white residents and not on absolute levels of socioeconomic development, which, if used for the ranking, would result in a list of cities with the worst social and economic measures for anyone regardless of their race.

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 comprise less than 5% of the population or where data limitations made comparisons between racial groups impossible.

Within the index, we considered data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey on median household income, poverty, adult high school and bachelor’s degree attainment, homeownership, and unemployment for each racial group. All ACS data are five-year estimates for 2019, the most recent year available.

Data on the number of prisoners in state or federal correctional facilities within a state by race are for 2019 and came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These figures were adjusted for population using 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.

We also included age-adjusted mortality rates for the years 2017 to 2019 from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. We aggregated mortality rates from the county to the metropolitan level using boundary definitions from the Census Bureau. Incarceration and mortality rates are per 100,000 residents.

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