The United States was late to abolish slavery compared with many other nations, and in no other nation did its abolition involve the level of violence seen during the American Civil War, in which approximately 750,000 people were killed. From the stormy years from 1865 through 1877 following the years of Reconstruction, to the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to the emergence in 2014 of the Black Lives Matter movement, racial tension largely remain in the United States.
To highlight these tensions, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 worst states for black Americans, namely, the states where social and economic inequality remains at its worst.
> Pct. residents black: 14.3% (14th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 38.0% (23rd highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,533 per 100,000 (23rd highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 12.2% (4th highest)
The white unemployment rate in Illinois of 5.0% is 12th highest compared with white jobless rates in other states. While relatively high, white unemployment is still a fraction of the rate for black workers in Illinois, which at 12.2% is among the highest in the country. Socioeconomic disparities such as this employment gap contribute to unequal incarceration rates. Black Illinois residents are more than eight times more likely to be imprisoned than white state residents. While the white incarceration rate of 174 per 100,000 white people is one of the lowest in the country, the black incarceration rate of 1,533 per 100,000 black residents is higher than the corresponding national rate.
According to a recent policy brief from the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children, the state also has a juvenile justice problem. According to the Center, youth incarceration not only disproportionately affects black children, but also it is the most expensive and least effective response to juvenile delinquency. Unfortunately, political gridlock and one of the nation’s worst government debt problems have resulted in fewer community programs in Illinois.
In the 10 worst states for black Americans, the typical black household earns less than two-thirds the income of a typical white household without exception. In a few states, black households earn half of what white households do. Because only a fraction of net worth can be captured by annual income, this disparity captures only a portion of the true wealth inequality in these states. According to estimates from the Economic Policy Institute, the median wealth of black families was less than $5,000 in 2010. For white families, by contrast, the typical wealth was nearly $100,000.
Income disparities are quite pronounced nationwide — the typical black household earns $36,544 a year, about $25,000 less than the typical white household. The household income gap, while severe, does not fully explain the 20-to-1 wealth gap between white and black families. Ownership of property, the single greatest source of familial wealth in America, is one significant factor. Just 40% of Black Americans own the residences in which they live compared to 71% of white Americans.
The United States is far and away the international leader in incarceration. There are 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails, up 500% from 40 years ago. According to criminal justice reform advocate The Sentencing Project, changes in law and policy — not changes in crime rates — account for much of the increase. Nationwide, 275 of every 100,000 white Americans are in prison compared to 1,408 of every 100,000 black residents.
Researchers at the Sentencing Project wrote, “The results are overcrowding in prisons and fiscal burdens on states, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety.”
The consequences of high incarceration rates on African Americans are widespread and compounding. People who have been in prison are less likely to be able to find a job or acquire an education, and those who are convicted on felony charges in many states lose the right to vote. Nationwide, 1 in every 20 black residents is disenfranchised, largely because of imprisonment. In Wyoming, 1 in every 5 black residents is disenfranchised.
It is worth noting that even in states in which social and economic inequalities are less severe, there is still a meaningful gap in outcomes between white and black populations. In Maryland, the state in which the smallest white-black poverty gap exists, black residents are still more than twice as likely to be poor. Even in the state where the racial incarceration rates are the most similar, Hawaii, black residents are still more than twice as likely to be imprisoned.