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More than 50 years ago, Martin Luther King had his dream. While as a nation and society we have made steps towards equality since that fateful day, the journey isn’t even close to over.
Discrimination and segregation still are daily facts of life for many Black Americans. Voter suppression is on the rise, hollowing out cornerstones of citizenship. The court of law may espouse all being equal under the law. Yet, Black Americans are more likely to be convicted of committing a crime and receive harsher sentences.
While more Black Americans are receiving advanced degrees than before, pay is lower than white counterparts at every level of education.
We sought to highlight which states have made the most progress in key areas- and which states have the furthest to go.
Summary of facts
- Black Americans earn 73.8% that of White Americans nationally.
- Homeownership rates are halved for Black Americans.
- Wisconsin has the largest racial disparity between black and white residents in the nation.
- Wisconsin is followed by Iowa and South Dakota.
- In general, a majority of the states with the largest racial disparity are in the Midwest, while Southern states fared better
- Maine has the greatest income gap between black and white workers.
- The widest education achievement gap is in Connecticut where there is a 19.7% difference.
States That Have A Long Way To Go To Reach Equality
The Midwest dominates this list, with 5 of the top 10 being Midwestern states.
From slimmer paychecks to unfavorable educational outcomes and more, these states have a long way to go. You can keep reading to see how we determined these states or scroll to the bottom to see where you state landed.
How We Determined The States That Have The Furthest To Go
We ranked each state in four areas:
- Income Gap (Higher is worse)
- Education Gap (Higher is worse)
- Home Ownership Disparity (High is worse)
- Black Americans Incarceration Rate Per 100,000 (Higher is worse)
To calculate the income gap, we turned to the American Community Survey. We didn’t simply analyze median incomes because our goal wasn’t to find to states where Black Americans earn the least, but where they earn comparatively less. Instead, we calculated the percent difference between median white and median black incomes. The greater the disparity, the greater the wage gap, and the further the state has to go towards equality.
Our education data came from the ACS, as well. Similar to income, we determined the difference between Black Americans with a Bachelor’s Degree and White Americans. Since college graduates have higher lifetime earning potentials and face lower risk of unemployment, it felt like an important metric to evaluate.
Owning a home is the American dream and an important part of passing on generational wealth. With this in mind, we, once again turning to the ACS, compared in each state the rate of Black American home ownership to White American home ownership to determine the home ownership disparity.
Our data on incarceration rates came from the Sentencing Project Organization. It looked at the number of Black Americans incarcerated per 100,000.
You can see a breakdown of the 10 states that scored the worst when ranked, or jump to the bottom to see the full list of states.
Incarceration: 2542 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 48%
Income Gap: 37%
Education Gap: 16.7%
Wisconsin is the worst state for Black Americans according to the above metrics. In the Badger State, black imprisonment is more than 10 times that of white imprisonment. Combine that with dismal home ownership rates and a staggering income gap and it’s easy to see Wisconsin has some ground to make up.
Incarceration: 2349 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 50%
Income Gap: 35%
Education Gap: 11.9%
Just behind Wisconsin is Iowa in #2. Black Iowans are half as likely to own a home as white Iowans. In addition to being less likely to own a home, Black Iowans bring home smaller paychecks.
Incarceration: 1493 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 35%
Income Gap: 32%
Education Gap: 18.8%
The third state, and third Midwestern state to make the list, is South Dakota. While South Dakota has higher rates of comparative home ownership and less of a wage gap, the Mount Rushmore state falls desperately behind in education. Black South Dakota residents are 18% less likely to receive a bachelor’s degree.
Incarceration: 1392 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 35%
Income Gap: 33%
Education Gap: 19.7%
In 4th place is Connecticut. While Connecticut may be far away from the first three states on the east coast, it tells a similar story- an appalling wage gap, meager home ownership, and an education rate that leaves a lot to be desired.
Incarceration: 1219 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 52%
Income Gap: 36%
Education Gap: 15.5
While Minnesota has less severe incarcerations rates than most other states, that doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and roses in Minnesota. Black Minnesotans have a home ownership rate that is half their white counterparts. This makes sense because in addition to one of the worst home ownership disparities, Minnesota also has one of the worst wage gaps.
Incarceration: 1734 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 34%
Income Gap: 30%
Education Gap: 16.1%
Kansas is the 6th worst state. Kansas has high incarcerations, with 1735 of 100,000 Black Americans imprisoned. Pair that with a high education gap and it’s easy to see Kansas has room for improvements.
Incarceration: 1040 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 46%
Income Gap: 39%
Education Gap: 14.6%
New Hampshire has one of the worst income gaps in the nation. Black residents bring home paychecks 39% smaller. That works out to a staggering $15,564 less a year. Or a down payment for a modest priced home.
Incarceration: 1625 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 37%
Income Gap: 28%
Education Gap: 12.2%
Ohio is number eight. What earned Ohio its spot? Generally dismal marks across the board. While Ohio doesn’t have the work educational gap or income gap or so on, it scores poorly in every category.
Incarceration: 839 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 49%
Income Gap: 47%
Education Gap: 14.2%
Maine’s the 9th worst state for Black Americans. Black residents of this Northeastern state face the largest income gap in the nation. No doubt, this influences the low home ownership rate. It’s hard to buy a house when you’re bringing home 47% less.
Incarceration: 1740 per 100,000
Home Ownership Inequality: 29%
Income Gap: 40%
Education Gap: 12.9%
The Bayou State rounds out our list. While home ownership is comparatively stronger than other states, it doesn’t compensate for strong deficiencies in income and education. Black Louisiana residents endure one of the largest income gaps in the nation.
Closing Thoughts On The Worst States For Black Americans
These ten states have strong shortcomings in education, income, incarceration, and home ownership. Overall, we only analyzed four areas, and there are a multitude of other factors that contribute to quality of life. However, each of these four areas is important and illustrates the broad differences in available opportunity. Black Maine residents have a median income $15,655 less than the white median income. In Connecticut, the college graduation rate is almost 20% lower. These differences matter. You can see the full list of all states, and which ones have the most opportunity below:
|1||Wisconsin||2542 per 100,000||47.99%||37.31%||16|
|2||Iowa||2349 per 100,000||50.05%||35.05%||11|
|3||South Dakota||1493 per 100,000||35.07%||31.74%||18|
|4||Connecticut||1392 per 100,000||34.74%||33.34%||19|
|5||Minnesota||1219 per 100,000||52.31%||36.26%||15|
|6||Kansas||1734 per 100,000||33.70%||30.30%||16|
|7||New Hampshire||1040 per 100,000||45.63%||38.85%||14|
|8||Ohio||1625 per 100,000||37.16%||27.95%||12|
|9||Maine||839 per 100,000||49.37%||46.78%||14|
|10||Louisiana||1740 per 100,000||28.67%||39.51%||12|
|11||Illinois||1533 per 100,000||33.70%||28.34%||15|
|12||Michigan||1682 per 100,000||36.56%||25.59%||12|
|13||Pennsylvania||1810 per 100,000||31.07%||26.77%||13|
|14||Utah||1481 per 100,000||44.85%||9.80%||17|
|15||Colorado||1891 per 100,000||30.38%||21.23%||14|
|16||North Dakota||888 per 100,000||58.86%||36.31%||9|
|17||Vermont||2357 per 100,000||36.84%||24.44%||-2.2|
|18||Indiana||1616 per 100,000||38.27%||26.09%||9|
|19||Idaho||2160 per 100,000||34.87%||25.38%||1|
|20||Nebraska||1680 per 100,000||38.89%||17.71%||11|
|21||Massachusetts||605 per 100,000||31.91%||28.26%||16|
|22||Missouri||1654 per 100,000||34.69%||20.53%||11|
|23||New Jersey||1140 per 100,000||30.59%||27.00%||16|
|24||Virginia||1386 per 100,000||23.95%||27.01%||18|
|25||Montana||1985 per 100,000||61.21%||13.13%||-5.3|
|26||Alaska||1053 per 100,000||30.95%||33.09%||11|
|27||South Carolina||1030 per 100,000||25.22%||28.62%||17|
|28||New Mexico||1326 per 100,000||31.74%||31.04%||9|
|29||Oregon||2061 per 100,000||29.87%||23.73%||8|
|30||New York||896 per 100,000||32.35%||20.98%||17|
|31||West Virginia||1234 per 100,000||31.82%||32.67%||6|
|32||Washington||1272 per 100,000||32.65%||23.89%||10|
|33||Oklahoma||2625 per 100,000||29.09%||20.19%||7|
|34||Alabama||1417 per 100,000||25.80%||27.15%||10|
|35||Nevada||1592 per 100,000||34.56%||16.03%||9|
|36||Arkansas||1665 per 100,000||28.27%||23.09%||9|
|36||Kentucky||1411 per 100,000||37.23%||19.43%||8|
|38||Arizona||2126 per 100,000||32.78%||8.91%||5|
|39||Rhode Island||934 per 100,000||30.94%||20.94%||15|
|40||North Carolina||951 per 100,000||27.39%||25.10%||13|
|41||Mississippi||1052 per 100,000||24.22%||31.06%||10|
|42||Florida||1621 per 100,000||24.74%||19.01%||11|
|43||Delaware||1238 per 100,000||28.96%||21.05%||11|
|44||Maryland||862 per 100,000||24.12%||21.61%||14|
|45||Texas||1844 per 100,000||27.19%||11.86%||5|
|46||Hawaii||585 per 100,000||27.33%||23.51%||12|
|47||California||1767 per 100,000||24.42%||10.10%||8|
|47||Georgia||1066 per 100,000||26.55%||19.90%||10|
|49||Tennessee||1166 per 100,000||29.98%||18.55%||8|
|50||Wyoming||1307 per 100,000||18.96%||-3.83%||-1.0|
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