The release of the critically acclaimed movie Green Book starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali tells the story of the trials that Black travelers faced in ‘old’ Jim Crow United States.
Black travelers used The Negro Motorist Green-Book – a travel guide that showed what areas were safe to travel in as an African-American, along with which ones to avoid.
- Victor H. Green
- Publisher: About Comics
- Paperback: 52 pages
Fast forward 60 years, and it seems like some parts of America are still as dangerous for Blacks now as they were back then.
To determine the 15 worst cities for black Americans, 24/7 Wall St. created an index consisting of eight measures to assess race-based gaps in socioeconomic outcomes in each of the nation’s metropolitan areas. Creating the index in this way ensured that cities were ranked on the differences between black and white residents and not on absolute levels of socioeconomic development. For each measure, we constructed an index from 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 comprised less than 5 percent of the population or where data limitations made comparisons between racial groups impossible.
Editors Note: You would think that more cities in the South would be on this list. There are still sundown towns in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
The term ‘sundown towns’ came from signs posted that “colored people” had to leave town by sundown. These towns were usually white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practiced a form of segregation by enforcing restrictions excluding people of non-white races via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.
Here is the list:
15. Chicago, Naperville and Elgin, Illinois
• Black population: 1.6 million (16.9 percent)
• Black median income: $36,017 (47.3 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 18.7 percent black; 5.8 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 39.9 percent black; 74.6 percent white
A history of exclusionary zoning, redlining, and discriminatory lending practices in Chicago throughout the 20th century has led to deeply entrenched segregation in the Midwestern metropolis and contributed to some of the largest racial disparities in income, education, and health of any U.S. metro area. While nationwide the typical black household earns 60.1 percent of the income the typical white household earns, in Chicago the typical black household earns just 47.3 percent of the typical white household’s income. Just 21.3 percent of black adults in Chicago have a college degree, less than half the 43.7 percent of white adults with a degree. Additionally, the black unemployment rate is more than three times the white unemployment rate.
14. Rochester, New York
• Black population: 124,911 (11.5 percent)
• Black median income: $28,681 (48.7 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 16.3 percent black; 5.4 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 32.3 percent black; 73.9 percent white
A recent report by the Civil Rights Project of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that segregation persists de facto in the Rochester metro area’s schools. From 1990 to 2010, white enrollment in Rochester’s inner-city public schools fell from more than 34 percent to just 15 percent. As white families relocated to the suburbs, the share of black students in urban Rochester schools climbed from 49 percent to 60 percent.
Segregated schools can perpetuate economic and social inequality. In Rochester just 78.8 percent of black adults have a high school diploma compared to 93.1 percent of white adults – nearly double the nationwide attainment gap. The median income for black area households of $28,681 a year is less than half the white median household income of $58,885 a year.
13. Danville, Illinois
• Black population: 10,946 (13.7 percent)
• Black median income: $24,504 (52.1 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 22.5 percent black; 8.1 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 31.0 percent black; 75.0 percent white
Danville is one of several metro areas in Illinois in which the gaps in income, education, and health between white and black residents are among the widest in the country. The typical black household earns $24,504 a year, about half the income the typical white household earns of $47,054 a year. Just 31.0 percent of black heads of household own their homes, compared to the white homeownership rate of 75.0 percent.
One factor contributing to the large disparities in income and homeownership in Danville may be the high unemployment rate among black workers in the area. According to recent Census figures, 22.5 percent of the black workforce in Danville is unemployed, the sixth highest share of any U.S. metro area and nearly three times the area’s 8.1 percent white unemployment rate.
12. Trenton, New Jersey
• Black population: 75,905 (20.5 percent)
• Black median income: $43,393 (47.7 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 15.6 percent black; 6.2 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 40.6 percent black; 76.3 percent white
In the Trenton metro area, gaps in socioeconomic measures such as income and poverty are partially rooted in disparities in educational attainment. While the 48.0 percent white college attainment rate in Trenton is far greater than the 33.8 percent national figure, the 18.2 percent black college attainment rate is below the 20.0 percent national figure. Those with lower educational attainment have lower earnings potential and are less likely to accumulate wealth over their lifetimes. The typical black household in Trenton earns $43,393 a year, less than half the median income for white households of $91,008 a year.
Trenton is the capital of the state with the largest black-white disparity in incarceration in the country. According to data from the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice reform advocacy group, black Americans are incarcerated at approximately five times the rate of white Americans nationwide. In New Jersey, the black incarceration rate is more than 12 times the rate for whites in the state.
11. Springfield, Illinois
• Black population: 25,242 (12.0 percent)
• Black median income: $27,197 (43.9 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 18.8 percent black; 5.8 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 30.6 percent black; 75.8 percent white
Across Illinois, black residents are nine times more likely than white residents to be incarcerated. A high incarceration rate can reduce the earning potential of affected families, and may be one of the many factors contributing to economic and social inequality in Illinois’ capital. The typical black household in Springfield earns $27,197 a year, less than half the median annual income of $61,976 for white households. A criminal record can also reduce the likelihood of finding employment, and the unemployment rate among black workers in Springfield stands at 18.8 percent, more than triple the white unemployment rate of 5.8 percent.
10. Fresno, California
• Black population: 48,434 (5.0 percent)
• Black median income: $25,895 (42.2 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 22.3 percent black; 8.9 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 25.1 percent black; 66.5 percent white
Fresno is the only West Coast metro area to rank among the worst cities for black Americans. In Fresno, like many U.S. cities, much of the overt housing segregation of the 20th century is evident today. Many of the city’s black and minority residents live in west Fresno, while the wealthier, largely white population lives in northern and eastern sections of the metro area. The construction of Highway 99 through Central Valley in the 1950s created a physical barrier between east and west Fresno, further concentrating poverty in minority neighborhoods. Today, 41.2 percent of black residents live in poverty, one of the largest shares of any city and more than three times the 13.0 percent white poverty rate.
According to a recent study by the California Environmental Protection Agency, life expectancy in Fresno varies by as much as 20 years between the city’s richest and poorest neighborhoods. With socioeconomic disparities largely divided along racial lines, so are health inequities. The black mortality rate of 908 deaths per 100,000 residents is nearly 20 percent greater than the white mortality rate of 750 deaths per 100,000 residents.
9. Kankakee, Illinois
• Black population: 16,908 (15.2 percent)
• Black median income: $28,816 (47.5 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 19.8 percent black; 6.2 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 34.5 percent black; 76.6 percent white
More than two in every five black residents of Kankakee, Illinois, live below the poverty line, compared to fewer than one in every 10 white residents. Disparities in poverty rates along racial lines tend to be higher in highly segregated areas, and Kankakee has some of the most racially segregated neighborhoods in Illinois.
While segregated schools were outlawed as the result of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954, the concentration of minorities in poor neighborhoods and inequitable distribution of resources can result in predominantly black and underfunded schools that put their students at a substantial disadvantage. In Kankakee, fewer than 80 percent of black adults have a high school diploma compared to more than 90 percent of white adults.
8. Niles-Benton Harbor, Michigan
• Black population: 22,985 (14.8 percent)
• Black median income: $22,757 (44.2 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 17.4 percent black; 6.2 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 34.6 percent black; 76.8 percent white
Niles-Benton Harbor is the only metro area in Michigan to rank among the worst places for black Americans. Segregation can significantly deepen socioeconomic gaps along racial lines, and Niles-Benton Harbor is one of the most segregated cities in the country. Nearly half of all black metro area residents in Niles-Benton Harbor live in predominantly black neighborhoods, more than twice the national share.
Nearly 42 percent of the city’s black population lives below the poverty line, a higher black poverty rate than in all but 11 other metro areas nationwide. Meanwhile, 12.4 percent of white area residents live below the poverty line. The white-black poverty gap in Niles-Benton Harbor may be exacerbated in part by the metro area’s wide unemployment disparity. The area’s black unemployment rate stands at 17.4 percent, well more than double the 6.2 percent white unemployment rate.
7. Decatur, Illinois
• Black population: 15,319 (14.1 percent)
• Black median income: $21,871 (42.3 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 21.7 percent black; 7.4 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 36.4 percent black; 75.9 percent white
Decatur is one of several Illinois metro areas to rank among the worst cities for black Americans. Just 77.6 percent of black adults in Decatur have a high school diploma, far less than the 91.8 percent of white adults who have a high school diploma. Individuals with less educational attainment tend to have lower earning potential, leading to similar disparities in income, unemployment, and other socioeconomic measures.
The 21.7 percent black unemployment rate in Decatur is nearly triple the 7.4 percent white unemployment rate. The typical black household in Decatur earns just $21,871 a year, less than half the white median household income of $51,662 a year. Black Decatur residents are also less likely to have as much in the way of material assets that white residents do. For example, the black homeownership rate in Decatur of 36.4 percent is less than half the white homeownership rate of 75.9 percent.
6. Elmira, New York
• Black population: 5,143 (5.9 percent)
• Black median income: $21,767 (42.6 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 15.9 percent black; 5.0 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 22.4 percent black; 71.7 percent white
Elmira, New York, has a relatively small black population. Just 5.9 percent of the nearly 88,000 area residents are black. For reference, 12.6 percent of the U.S. population is black. The gaps in some socioeconomic outcomes between white and black Elmira residents are among the largest in the country.
The typical black household in Elmira earns just $21,767 a year, less than half the income of the typical white household of $51,101 a year. Black Elmira residents are also less likely to have as much in the way of material assets that white residents do. For example, the homeownership rate among black Elmira residents is just 22.4 percent compared to 71.7 percent among white residents.
5. Peoria, Illinois
• Black population: 34,462 (9.1 percent)
• Black median income: $27,085 (45.6 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 17.9 percent black; 5.6 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 31.4 percent black; 76.1 percent white
Peoria, Illinois, is one of many cities on this list with a long history of segregation, the effects of which linger today. Black Peoria residents are much more likely to struggle financially and far more likely to face difficulty finding employment than white Peoria residents. The metro area’s black poverty rate is 37.0 percent – higher than the national black poverty rate of 26.2 percent and well above the metro area’s white poverty rate of 9.2 percent. Additionally, 17.9 percent of the metro area’s black labor force is out of a job compared to a white unemployment rate of just 5.6 percent.
While segregated housing has been illegal nationwide since the passage of the Fair Housing Act of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, a recent federal lawsuit alleges that there are still housing codes in place in Peoria being used to unlawfully target African Americans. Filed in August 2017 by the Illinois-based nonprofit HOPE Fair Housing Center, the lawsuit claims that Peoria’s chronic nuisance ordinance, which requires landlords to evict tenants from homes that have been the subject of multiple police contacts, is being selectively enforced in predominantly black neighborhoods.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Bloomington, Minnesota
• Black population: 270,924 (7.8 percent)
• Black median income: $31,653 (41.5 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 12.3 percent black; 3.9 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 24.6 percent black; 75.8 percent white
The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area is one of several Midwestern cities that enacted restrictive housing covenants and exclusionary zoning policies in the 20th century. These policies still impact residential patterns today. The city is highly segregated by race and has some of the largest disparities in poverty, income, and homeownership between black and white residents of any U.S. metro area.
While the 6.0 percent white poverty rate in Minneapolis is far lower than the comparable 10.6 percent national figure, the 32.0 percent black poverty rate is above the 26.2 percent national figure. Additionally, the typical black household in the area earns $31,653 a year, just 41.5 percent of the white median household income of $76,208. Disparity in homeownership is even more stark. The 24.6 percent black homeownership rate in the Twin Cities metro area is less than a third of the 75.8 percent white homeownership rate.
3. Racine, Wisconsin
• Black population: 21,450 (11.0 percent)
• Black median income: $26,888 (42.3 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 16.6 percent black; 6.1 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 31.4 percent black; 77.1 percent white
Racine, Wisconsin, is one of several Rust Belt cities where social and economic outcomes for black residents fall well behind those of white area residents. For example, the typical black household in the Racine metro area earns just $26,888 a year, less than half the $63,507 annual income the typical white household in the area earns.
Racial disparities in the metro area may be made worse by disproportionate incarceration rates. In Wisconsin, black residents are nearly 12 times more likely to be imprisoned than white residents. For reference, the black incarceration rate is five times the white incarceration rate nationwide. The effects of incarceration are far reaching, as adults with a criminal record are less likely to find employment, and households with a family member in jail have one less potential income earner.
2. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin
• Black population: 260,776 (16.6 percent)
• Black median income: $27,834 (42.5 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 16.1 percent black; 4.2 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 28.2 percent black; 69.5 percent white
Like many Midwestern cities with similar history, Milwaukee’s discriminatory housing policies from the mid-20th century still largely define residential patterns today. According to research published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 16 of the 18 suburbs of Milwaukee County enacted restrictive housing covenants in the 1940s, many of which remained in effect into the 1960s and 1970s. Segregation can contribute to income inequality, and today, the typical black household in Milwaukee earns just $27,834 a year – 42.5 percent of the $65,568 white median household income. While the white poverty rate in Milwaukee of 7.6 percent is one of the lowest in the country, the black poverty rate of 36.4 percent is among the highest.
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin, a state with one of the largest racial disparities in incarceration nationwide. Black Americans in Wisconsin are nearly 11 times more like to be incarcerated than white state residents. In Milwaukee County, more than half of all black adults in their 30s and early 40s have served time in a state correctional facility.
1. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa
• Black population: 12,085 (7.1 percent)
• Black median income: $25,897 (46.8 percent of white income)
• Unemployment: 23.9 percent black; 4.4 percent white
• Homeownership rate: 32.8 percent black; 73.2 percent white
No U.S. metro area has larger social and economic disparities along racial lines than Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa. Black metro area residents earn just 46.8 percent of what white area residents earn, and are far more likely to be unemployed than white workers in the city. The city’s black unemployment rate is 23.9 percent, well above the 13.3 percent nationwide black unemployment rate and the second highest such figure of any U.S. metro. Meanwhile, the area’s white unemployment rate stands at 4.4 percent, below the 5.9 percent national white unemployment rate and among the least of any city nationwide.
Like many U.S. cities with high economic and social inequality, Waterloo residents have struggled with several major incidents that have sparked racial tension in the area in recent years. In 2012, for example, a white police officer shot and killed a fleeing black suspect, and was later exonerated by a grand jury.
Is your city on the list? Should it be? Leave a comment below!