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Midwest is one of the worst places for African Americans to live, report says

Midwest is one of the worst places for African Americans to live, report says

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Building on 14th Street, burned years ago, slowly disintegrates

The second floor of a two-family home at 1604 N. 14th Street, owned by Paul McKee's NorthSide Regeneration, crumbles over downtown St. Louis on Tuesday, March 14, 2019. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

CLAYTON — While many Midwestern cities appear in “best places to live” lists, they are among the worst places to live for African Americans, according to a new report by a historian known for a landmark 2008 book that used maps and data to illustrate St. Louis’ decline.

In a report released on Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal, Washington-based think tank, University of Iowa historian Colin Gordon found that a number of factors — historical, economic, demographic and political — shaped patterns of racial disparity and race relations in the Midwest.

The disparities can’t simply be chalked up to America’s history of slavery and segregation, Gordon wrote. They persist to this day because of “ongoing patterns of discrimination or unequal advantage — what some have characterized as ‘the hidden rules of race’ or the ‘hidden costs of being African-American.’”

The report found racial disparities in education, employment, wages, income, poverty, home ownership, incarceration, access to health care, wealth and voting access. Among his findings:

• Ten Midwestern states, including Missouri and Illinois, made up the 11 states with the largest ratio between black and white unemployment in 2017.

• The Midwest has six of the nation’s eight most segregated cities, including St. Louis.

• Six Midwestern states, including Illinois, suspend black students at more than five times the rate of white students.

• Every Midwestern state imprisons African Americans at more than five times the rate of whites.

• Of the six metropolitan areas in which concentrated poverty among blacks exceeds 40%, five (Detroit, Milwaukee, Gary, Dayton and Cleveland) are in the Midwest.

• At every income level, African Americans are less likely to receive preventative health care and more likely to receive lower-quality care.

In his new report, Gordon recommended several policy changes to achieve racial equity in the Midwest including: investing in public education, raising wages for all workers, addressing labor market discrimination, adopting paid family leave and low-cost child care and improving our social safety net.

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