Special Report

The Worst States for Black Americans

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15. Maine
> Poverty rate: 34.8% Black, 11.1% white
> Homeownership rate: 22.1% Black, 73.3% white
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% Black, 4.0% white
> Median household income: $42,901 Black, $58,459 white

Based on racial disparities in several key socioeconomic measures, Maine ranks as the 15th worst state for Black Americans and second worst in the New England region. Maine has a Black poverty rate of 34.8%, the highest of any state and more than triple the white poverty rate in the state of 11.1%.

The higher likelihood of poverty for the state’s Black residents is likely partly the result of disparities in education outcomes. For example, only 82.5% of Black adults in Maine have a high school diploma, over 10 percentage points below the white high school diploma attainment rate. Black adults in Maine are also over nine times more likely than their white counterparts to be incarcerated in a state or federal correctional facility.

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14. North Dakota
> Poverty rate: 25.7% Black, 8.4% white
> Homeownership rate: 7.8% Black, 65.9% white
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% Black, 2.2% white
> Median household income: $37,872 Black, $68,066 white

Homeownership is one of the most practical ways to build intergenerational wealth in the United States. In North Dakota, the Black homeownership rate is just 7.8%, the lowest of any state and a fraction of the state’s 65.9% white homeownership rate. The North Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights conducted a study on access to fair housing in the state for minority populations and provided a list of recommendations in July 2021. These included harsher penalties for housing discrimination and increased investment in affordable housing.

Other stark disparities in the state include poverty, as more than one in every four Black North Dakotans live below the poverty line, compared to fewer than one in every 10 white residents. Additionally, even though only less than 3% of North Dakota’s population are Black, Black prisoners account for 12% of the state’s incarcerated population.

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13. New York
> Poverty rate: 21.1% Black, 10.4% white
> Homeownership rate: 31.3% Black, 63.6% white
> Unemployment rate: 9.1% Black, 4.3% white
> Median household income: $48,557 Black, $76,737 white

New York state has the highest degree of income inequality in the United States – and inequality along racial lines is one contributing factor. The typical Black household in the state earns just $48,557 a year, compared to the median income among white households of $76,737. Additionally, about one in every five Black state residents live below the poverty line, compared to one in every 10 white residents.

Homeownership is one of the most practical ways to build intergenerational wealth in the United States, and the Black homeownership rate in New York of 31.3% is less than half the 63.6% homeownership rate among the state’s white population.

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12. Louisiana
> Poverty rate: 31.4% Black, 12.8% white
> Homeownership rate: 47.2% Black, 74.7% white
> Unemployment rate: 10.0% Black, 4.8% white
> Median household income: $30,540 Black, $60,288 white

Like much of the Deep South, Louisiana had some of the most stringent and repressive segregation laws in the country, and the legacy of those policies loom large today. One of the most segregated states in the country, over 56% of Black Louisiana residents reside in majority Black communities. Many schools in the state are also largely segregated, which gives way to disparate educational outcomes. Currently, only about 80% of Black adults in Louisiana have a high school diploma, compared to 88% of white adults in the state.

Black Louisiana workers are also twice as likely to be unemployed and Black residents are twice as likely to live below the poverty line as their white counterparts.

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11. Utah
> Poverty rate: 27.2% Black, 8.6% white
> Homeownership rate: 28.9% Black, 72.5% white
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% Black, 3.3% white
> Median household income: $41,752 Black, $73,580 white

Utah ranks as the worst Western state for Black Americans and the 11th worst state nationwide. Only 1.1% of the state’s population identify as Black. As the second to last state in the West to repeal bans on interracial marriages, the state has had racist laws on the books more recently than much of the rest of the country. Today, Black state residents are nearly nine times as likely as white residents to be incarcerated in a state or federal correctional facility.

Economic disparities in Utah are also profound. The typical Black household in the state earns just $41,752 a year, compared to the median income among white households of $73,580. Additionally, more than one in every four Black state residents live below the poverty line, compared to fewer than one in every 10 white residents, one of the largest such gaps of any state.