For decades, black Americans have faced higher poverty rates, lower incomes and higher incarceration rates than white Americans. While African Americans in every U.S. city face such problems, racial inequality is much worse in some parts of the country. By examining the disparities between white and black Americans in several economic and social measures, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 worst cities for black Americans.
Four of the cities with the worst racial inequality are in Illinois, two are in Iowa, and all are in the Midwest. 24/7 Wall St. interviewed Valerie Wilson, director of the program on race, ethnicity, and the economy at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a progressive think tank. Wilson associated the geographical clustering of these cities to the Great Migration — the relocation of millions of African Americans from the South to cities in the North and Midwest between 1916 and 1970.
Over that period, African Americans fled from the oppressive Jim Crow policies of the South, among other forms of racism, to cities such as Chicago and New York. These areas — the Midwest in particular — were undergoing a manufacturing boom at the time, and black and other Americans sought economic opportunities there. However, the industrial Midwestern economies have declined dramatically since 1970, and the region today is a part of what is commonly known as the Rust Belt.
The manufacturing industries in those areas offered relatively well-paying jobs to relatively uneducated people — many of whom were African American. As Wilson explained, “those industries have essentially dried up, and the opportunities are no longer there, but the people still are.”
Methodology is here. If you’re gonna talk methodology in comments, then make sure to click that link first.
* The Illinois cities…
8. Kankakee, IL
> Pct. residents black: 14.9%
> Population: 111,375
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 48.7%
> Black unemployment rate: 20.6%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 8.1%
More than one in five black workers in Kankakee is unemployed. The black unemployment rate exceeds 20% in only 16 other U.S. cities, three of them among the worst cities for African Americans. Lack of job opportunities likely contribute to a higher poverty rate among black residents. At nearly 40%, the poverty rate among black residents is not only far higher than the comparable rate for white residents of 7.3%, but also one of the highest in the nation. A typical black Kankakee household earns $31,119 annually, lower than the median annual income for black households nationwide, and less than half the median income for white Kankakee households.
6. Peoria, IL
> Pct. residents black: 9.1%
> Population: 379,520
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 49.1%
> Black unemployment rate: 16.5%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 7.2%
Located in central Illinois, Peoria is one of the worst cities in the country for black Americans. The poverty rate of 28.2% among the city’s black population is well above the poverty rate among the city’s white residents of 10.4%. Similarly, the median annual income of $58,563 for white households is more than double the annual income of $28,777 for a typical black household.
While black Americans are about five times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts, in Illinois, they are more than eight times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. As is the case in many other U.S. cities, the incarceration rate is likely far higher in urban areas such as Peoria.
4. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
> Pct. residents black: 16.8%
> Population: 9,553,810
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 50.1%
> Black unemployment rate: 18.5%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 7.0%
Slightly more than 7% of white Chicago area residents live in poverty, while the poverty rate for the city’s black population is nearly 30%. Similarly, while 43.7% of white adults had at least a college degree, 21.8% of black adult Chicagoans were college educated. In addition to socioeconomic racial disparities, black area residents had far higher mortality rates compared to white residents. The Chicago metro area black population leads the nation with 1,550 deaths per 100,000 African Americans in a year, versus the mortality rate for white Chicagoans of 713 per 100,000 white people.
Chicago is one of the nation’s most diverse cities. It is also one of the nation’s most segregated, however, and in the city’s neighborhoods there is little racial diversity. Wilson explained that outcomes worsen for anyone — black or white — living under poor socioeconomic conditions. However, she added, not only do black urban dwellers suffer more under such conditions, but also racial inequality and segregation are themselves harmful to communities.
2. Rockford, IL
> Pct. residents black: 11.1%
> Population: 342,411
> Black median household income as pct. of white: 44.2%
> Black unemployment rate: 28.9%
> Unemployment rate, all people: 8.3%
Located less than 100 miles northwest of Chicago, Rockford is home to about 342,400 people. Rockford is struggling economically. The area’s unemployment rate of 8.3% is more than 2 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate of 6.2%. While poor economic conditions affect everyone, the city’s black population has been hit the hardest.
Of the 201 metro areas examined, the median income of $22,651 among black households in Rockford is lower than in all but 10 other cities and significantly lower than the $51,264 median income among white households. Even more astounding, 28.9% of the city’s black working population is unemployed, a larger share than in any other city in the country. The poverty rate among the city’s black residents is 43.1%, over four times the city’s white poverty rate.
Milwaukee was first.