The 5 Worst States for Black People

Surprisingly, most of the places on our list are not in the racially regressive South.

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Progress, the story of black America.

We started from the most bottom of bottoms (not having personhood) and worked our way up to the age of Obama, where we are leaps and bounds better than we were (hey, we have personhood now!) but are still struggling to make it to the middle, let alone to the top, of society’s heap. A lot of things are working against us, and a lot of it boils down to where we live.

Let’s face it. Some places are worse to be black in than others, and I’m not just talking historically racial quagmires like Mississippi. Racism and a weakened social safety net know no region. Wisconsin, Ohio and others have their bad points, which go beyond their lack of NBA championships.

Taking into account stats on education, health, incarceration rate, economics and general misery, these are some of the worst states for black people.

Wisconsin

So bad it should get ranked twice, the state of Wisconsin incarcerates black people at the highest rate in the country—13 percent. Within the state, 49 percent of black men under 30 have already been incarcerated, mostly because of its mandatory-minimum-sentencing drug laws, overall hostility toward drug users (prison is often preferred over treatment) and “driving while poor,” aka having a suspended license because of unpaid fines. Other problems with Wisconsin include its punitive voter-ID law, which disproportionately affects African Americans, and its education of black kids—boy, is it bad at education.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation put out a report this year ranking Wisconsin as the worst place to raise black children. (It beat out Mississippi, which was the second-worst place.) The foundation gave Wisconsin a score of 238 out of 1,000 for “its ability to prepare black children for educational and financial success.” The national average score was 345, with Hawaii receiving the highest score, 583. Adding insult to injury, Wisconsin was ranked 10th overall in preparing white children for success.

And its largest city, Milwaukee, is among the most segregated cities in the United States.

Ohio

Thank goodness they have LeBron, because Ohio is having a rough time otherwise. The Buckeye State is home to the second-highest infant mortality rate in the country. The median black household income is a horrid $26,039 (pdf), compared with $45,400 for white Ohioans. (The national median income for black households is not awesome but better than Ohio at $33,321.) Cleveland ranks in the top 10 most segregated cites. Ohio is also No. 6 on the list of worst places to raise black children. Oh, and the voter suppression: Ohio has run into myriad voting snafus affecting the black vote, going back to the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004.

Michigan

Michigan gets on the list for being the third-worst state in which to raise black children; the home of Detroit, America’s No. 1 most segregated city; and for having the highest black unemployment rate in the nation, which clocks in at 16.7 percent. (Michigan’s white unemployment rate is only 5.8 percent.) To go with that miserable rate, Michigan also has the lowest rate of approval (23 percent) for jobless benefits.

Iowa

If you’re black and into marijuana, avoid Iowa. The state arrests blacks at a rate eight times higher than whites for marijuana possession, despite the rate of drug usage between blacks and whites being about the same. For years, Iowa also held the title for locking up black people at a higher rate than any other state (it recently lost that crown to Wisconsin). While other states have large prison populations, what makes Iowa stand out is that it’s a relatively small state with a small population. In fact, its black population is only about 3 percent. Adding insult to injury, the poverty rate among African Americans in Iowa is 31 percent, compared with 11 percent for white Iowans.

Mississippi

As the second-worst place to raise a black child in America, Mississippi has a lot of other issues to go with that dishonor. It has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest infant mortality rate in the country—nearly 10 deaths for every 1,000 births, beating out also-high neighbors Louisiana and Alabama. But why is it so high? Probably because the numbers are heavily skewed by the black birth mortality rate, which is 13.8 per 1,000 births, with 40 percent of all infants in Mississippi being born to black women. One of the poorest states in the nation, Mississippi also has a high black unemployment rate (13.9 percent) and the worst unemployment benefits (a paltry average of $194 per week).

Danielle C. Belton is an associate editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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