Special Report

The Worst States for Black Americans

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5. Michigan
> Poverty rate: 28.9% Black, 11.4% white
> Homeownership rate: 41.8% Black, 77.1% white
> Unemployment rate: 13.3% Black, 4.7% white
> Median household income: $35,322 Black, $61,400 white

Segregation can exacerbate inequality, and Michigan is home to many highly segregated Rust Belt cities, including Detroit, Flint, and Lansing. Indeed, the state as a whole is among the most segregated in the country, with 56.8% of Black residents living in majority Black communities. One effect of segregation in Michigan is reduced access to job opportunities in majority Black neighborhoods. Across the state, the Black unemployment rate stands at 13.3%, well above the 4.7% white jobless rate – the second largest unemployment gap among states.

High unemployment fuels further economic disparity in Michigan, particularly the likelihood of poverty. Nearly 29% of Michigan’s Black population live below the poverty line, compared to just over 11% of the state’s white residents.

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4. Illinois
> Poverty rate: 26.1% Black, 9.4% white
> Homeownership rate: 38.8% Black, 72.8% white
> Unemployment rate: 14.1% Black, 4.5% white
> Median household income: $38,573 Black, $71,922 white

Illinois is home to some of the most segregated cities in the country, including Chicago. Springfield, Rockford, Peoria, and Champaign-Urbana. Black communities in these cities are often underserved and have limited economic opportunity. Across Illinois, Black unemployment stands at 14.1%, more than three times the 4.5% white jobless rate – the largest unemployment gap in the country.

Due in part to the high Black unemployment, the state also has significant racial disparities in income and earnings. The typical Black household in the state earns just $38,573 a year, about $33,300 less than the median income of $71,922 among white households in the state. Black Illinois residents are also more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to live below the poverty line.

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3. Iowa
> Poverty rate: 31.9% Black, 10.1% white
> Homeownership rate: 24.4% Black, 73.6% white
> Unemployment rate: 10.6% Black, 3.3% white
> Median household income: $32,139 Black, $62,097 white

In Iowa, Black residents are over nine times more likely to be incarcerated than white residents. Though only 3.6% of the state’s population are Black, over 25% of Iowans in a federal or state correctional facility are Black.

Such disparity contributes to inequality in other areas, including political and economic outcomes. For example, 11.4% of Black Iowans are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction compared to 1.5% of white Iowans. Incarceration and criminal records can also vastly reduce employment opportunities and earning potential. In Iowa, Black unemployment stands at 10.6% compared to the state’s 3.3% white unemployment rate. Additionally, the typical Black household in the state earns just $32,139 a year, well below the median income of $62,097 among white households in the state.

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2. Minnesota
> Poverty rate: 28.6% Black, 7.3% white
> Homeownership rate: 24.3% Black, 76.0% white
> Unemployment rate: 8.8% Black, 3.0% white
> Median household income: $37,811 Black, $74,387 white

Racial gaps in several key socioeconomic outcomes makes Minnesota the second worst state in the country for Black Americans. Due to racial zoning and redlining, urban areas in Minnesota, particularly the Twin Cities, are among the most segregated places in the country. Housing segregation has given way to highly segregated public schools and vastly disparate education outcomes. Only 81% of Black adults in Minnesota have a high school diploma compared to over 95% of white adults. A high school education is a prerequisite for many employment opportunities, and the 8.8% Black unemployment rate across Minnesota is nearly three times the 3.0% white jobless rate.

Inequalities are not just economic, but also social – particularly with regard to law enforcement and the justice system. Black Minnesota residents are over 10 times more likely than white residents to be incarcerated in a state of federal correctional facility. Black residents make up over 36% of the state’s prison population and only 6.3% of the overall population.

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1. Wisconsin
> Poverty rate: 31.3% Black, 9.0% white
> Homeownership rate: 25.5% Black, 71.1% white
> Unemployment rate: 10.0% Black, 3.0% white
> Median household income: $31,351 Black, $64,377 white

Wisconsin ranks as the worst state in the country for Black Americans. Due in part to housing discrimination in cities like Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a highly segregated state, with over 50% of the Black population residing in majority Black neighborhoods. Segregation often fuels racial disparities, and many Black communities in Wisconsin are suffering. Black unemployment in the state stands at 10%, more than triple the 3.0% white jobless rate. Additionally, the typical Black household in the state earns just $31,351 a year, less than half the median income of $64,377 among white households in the state.

Inequalities are not just economic, but also social – particularly with regard to law enforcement and the justice system. Black Wisconsin residents are over 12 times more likely than white residents to be incarcerated in a state of federal correctional facility. Black residents make up over 42% of the state’s prison population and only 6.3% of the overall population.

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