Racial Disparity In America: The 10 Worst States For Black Americans

Kathy Morris
by Kathy Morris
Study - 3 weeks ago

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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.

For Black History Month, we sought to highlight which states have made the most progress in key areas- and which states have the furthest to go.

States That Have A Long Way To Go To Reach Equality

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Iowa
  3. South Dakota
  4. Connecticut
  5. Minnesota
  6. Kansas
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Ohio
  9. Maine
  10. Louisiana

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.

1. Wisconsin

wisconsin

Source: Public Domain

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.

2. Iowa

iowa

Source: Public Domain

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.

3. South Dakota

south dakota

Source: Public Domain

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.

4. Connecticut

connecticut

Source: Public Domain

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.

5. Minnesota

minnesota

Source: Public Domain

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.

6. Kansas

kansas

Source: Public Domain

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.

7. New Hampshire

new hampshire

Source: Public Domain

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.

8. Ohio

ohio

Source: Public Domain

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.

9. Maine

maine

Source: Public Domain

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.

10. Louisiana

louisiana

Source: Public Domain

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:

Rank State Incarceration Home Owner Inequality Income Gap Education Gap(%)
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

Want the latest research and most engaging stories first? Email Kathy Morris at kmorris@zippia.com to be added to our weekly newsletter.

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