Special Report

The Worst Cities for Black Americans

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15. Erie, PA
> Black population: 18,700 (6.8% of total)
> Black median income: $24,180 (43.8% of white income)
> Unemployment: 12.1% (Black); 4.6% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 29.5% (Black); 69.8% (white)

The Erie, Pennsylvania, metro area has one of the lowest median household incomes for Black residents, at $24,180. White households earn more than twice as much, with a median of $55,202 — one of the largest gaps in the country.

The Erie metro area has one of the highest Black poverty rates in the country at 41.0%. The national Black poverty rate is 23.0%. The area’s white poverty rate of 13.2% is slightly higher than the U.S. white poverty rate of 11.1%.

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14. Syracuse, NY
> Black population: 52,515 (8.0% of total)
> Black median income: $33,256 (51.4% of white income)
> Unemployment: 13.1% (Black); 4.5% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 29.5% (Black); 72.2% (white)

Syracuse ranks as one of the worst cities for Black Americans in large part because of the educational attainment gap between white and Black residents. The metro area’s white high school attainment rate of 92.7% is closely in line with the national rate. But the Black high school attainment rate is just 78.3%, one of the lowest among the 383 metro areas in the U.S. An estimated 33.1% of white residents 25 and older have bachelor’s degrees, more than double the Black bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 14.0%.

There is an 11.9 percentage point gap between the poverty rates of white and Black Americans nationwide — 11.1% of white Americans live in poverty, compared to 23.0% of Black Americans. In Syracuse, that disparity is more than twice as high. In the area, 35.2% of Black residents live below the poverty line, compared to 11.3% of white area residents.

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13. Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL
> Black population: 28,044 (7.4% of total)
> Black median income: $33,792 (55.2% of white income)
> Unemployment: 13.6% (Black); 3.7% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 31.1% (Black); 74.2% (white)

The Davenport metro area ranks as one of the worst places for Black Americans in part due to the wide disparity in its educational attainment between white and Black residents. The high school attainment rate among white adult residents of 93.5% is slightly above the U.S. white high school attainment rate of 92.9%. Among Black area residents, the high school attainment rate is just 79.5%, well below the 86.0% Black high school attainment rate nationwide.

The Davenport metro area is primarily located in Iowa, a state with one of the largest racial disparities in incarceration. For every 100,000 Black Iowa residents, 2,191 are incarcerated. The white incarceration is roughly 10 times lower, at 224 incarcerations per 100,000 residents.

12. Niles, MI
> Black population: 22,368 (14.5% of total)
> Black median income: $25,068 (44.6% of white income)
> Unemployment: 13.1% (Black); 4.7% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 36.8% (Black); 76.7% (white)

Niles is a metro area in southwestern Michigan. The area’s Black median household income is one of the lowest in the country, at just over $25,000. The white median household income is well more than twice as high, at $56,199.

Niles also has a large gap in poverty rate between white and Black residents. While more than 40% of Black residents live in poverty, just 11.3% of white residents do. Overall, Niles’ unemployment rate is relatively high, at 5.9% compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.3%. Yet the Black unemployment rate is 13.1%, whereas the white unemployment rate is 4.7%.

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11. Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
> Black population: 34,128 (5.0% of total)
> Black median income: $37,716 (51.3% of white income)
> Unemployment: 8.8% (Black); 3.4% (white)
> Homeownership rate: 28.4% (Black); 72.7% (white)

The Des Moines, Iowa, metro area ranks as one of the worst cities for Black Americans in part due to the large disparity in health measures between white and Black residents. The white age-adjusted mortality rate is 717 deaths per 100,000 residents, which is slightly lower than the national rate. Black residents have a far higher age-adjusted mortality rate at 1,116 deaths per 100,000 residents. This is the sixth worst disparity in mortality rate among the nearly 400 U.S. metro areas.

The high school attainment rate for white adult residents is relatively high in Des Moines, at 95.6%. Yet the high school attainment rate for Black residents of the metro area is low, at 84.6%, below the 86.0% high school attainment rate for Black adults nationwide.

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