Special Report

The Worst States for Black Americans

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40. Tennessee
> Poverty rate: 24.7% Black, 12.9% white
> Homeownership rate: 43.0% Black, 71.8% white
> Unemployment rate: 8.9% Black, 4.5% white
> Median household income: $38,791 Black, $56,725 white

Even though racial oppression was not as pronounced in Tennessee as it was in parts of the Deep South, over a period of about 100 years ending in the 1950s, Tennessee enacted 20 Jim Crow laws. These included school segregation, a prohibition of interracial marriage, and seperate public accomodations, among others. Tennessee was also the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan.

The legacy of Tennessee’s racial oppression still looms large. Today, the typical Black household in the state earns $38,791, about $18,000 less than the median income among white households. Black workers are also nearly twice as likely to be unemployed and Black residents more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line as their white counterparts.

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39. Georgia
> Poverty rate: 21.5% Black, 11.3% white
> Homeownership rate: 46.7% Black, 72.5% white
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% Black, 4.2% white
> Median household income: $44,670 Black, $66,473 white

A former slave state, and one in which Black residents were disenfranchised and subject to Jim Crow laws, Georgia also played a central role in the Civil Rights Movement. Still, the legacy of centuries of racist laws has given way to racial inequality to this day.

Black unemployment in the state stands at 8.6%, more than double the 4.2% white jobless rate. Additionally, the typical Black household in the state earns just $44,670 a year, well below the median income of $66,473 among white households in the state. Inequalities are not just economic, but also social – particularly with regard to education outcomes. Only 24% of Black adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 10 percentage points below the white bachelor’s degree attainment rate.

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38. Delaware
> Poverty rate: 18.6% Black, 9.0% white
> Homeownership rate: 51.0% Black, 78.2% white
> Unemployment rate: 8.1% Black, 4.7% white
> Median household income: $50,361 Black, $72,508 white

Homeownership is one of the best ways to build wealth in the United States. Though the Black homeownership rate in Delaware of 51.0% is higher than the 41.8% national Black homeownership rate, it is well below the 78.2% white homeownership rate in the state. The lower homeownership rates among Black residents in the state are partly the result of racist housing policies of the previous century.

Also due in part to historic discrimination, which limited most Black Delaware residents to labor and service jobs, economic disparities remain evident along racial lines in the state. For example, the Black poverty rate in Delaware of 18.6% is more than double the state’s 9.0% white poverty rate.

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37. Vermont
> Poverty rate: 25.9% Black, 10.5% white
> Homeownership rate: 24.4% Black, 71.7% white
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% Black, 3.5% white
> Median household income: $39,400 Black, $62,539 white

Vermont has the smallest socioeconomic racial gaps of any Northeastern state. Still, variations in certain key measures along racial lines are stark. For example, more than one in every four Black Vermonters live below the poverty line, compared to about one in every 10 white state residents. Additionally, the Black homeownership rate in the state of 24.4% is a fraction of the 71.7% white homeownership rate.

Disparities are also evident in the state’s justice system. Black Vermont residents are over eight times more likely than white residents to be in a state or federal correctional institution. To put it another way, about 10% of the incarcerated population in the state are Black, even though Black residents comprise only 1.3% of the state’s population.

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36. Nevada
> Poverty rate: 23.0% Black, 11.0% white
> Homeownership rate: 29.3% Black, 61.6% white
> Unemployment rate: 10.3% Black, 5.6% white
> Median household income: $41,034 Black, $64,008 white

The vast majority of Nevada’s population reside in the Las Vegas area – a place where, until the 1960s, Black residents were restricted from living or working outside of the city’s Westside. Racial segregation is inherently unequal, and racial desparities are still evident in Nevada today.

Homeownership is one of the most practical ways to build intergenerational wealth in the United States, and the Black homeownership rate in Nevada stands at 29.3%, compared to the white homeownership rate in the state of 61.6%. Black Nevada residents are also twice as likely as white residents to live below the poverty line and Black workers are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed.

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