Cleveland is the worst large city in America for black women's livability.
That's the striking but not entirely unsurprising conclusion
reached by the City Lab
after comparing income, educational and health outcomes for black women in American cities (42) in which at least 100,000 black women live. Specifically, Cleveland ranked dead last for educational outcomes for black women and second-to-last for income and health outcomes for black women.
Rounding out the bottom of the pile were mostly Midwestern cities, alongside Pittsburgh, which shares many broad characteristics with the Midwest. An Economic Policy Institute report
, cited by City Lab, laid out the overarching causes for the Midwest's abysmal performance for black women:
We trace the origins of racial inequality in the Midwest to the deep imprint of racial segregation, which concentrated the regions’ African American population in relatively few urban counties—and then erected a forbidding architecture of residential segregation within those urban settings. In turn, the historical arc of economic opportunity saw African Americans flock to new opportunities in the industrializing Midwest in the middle years of the last century, and then be disproportionately hit by the de-industrialization that followed.
That's a familiar refrain for anyone who's read up on the topic, specifically in Kenneth Kusmer's "A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930." In that essential book
, Kusmer details how African-Americans went from a vibrant part of Cleveland's city life in the 1800s to a segregated, forgotten population. Citing primary accounts and newspaper coverage, the historian documents how Cleveland was once a place of equality and abolitionist spirt in the years before the Civil War. By the industrial revolution, however, Cleveland's new waves of European immigrants set in motion a scramble of political power, sidelining black Clevelanders in the process. The book's heartbreaking conclusion argues this fall from equality to segregation is what ultimately doomed the city.
Today, that's represented by severe air pollution on the east side, staggering poverty levels, hyper-segregation like few cities still see, horrendous black infant and maternal mortality rates, depressed housing values, continuing disparities in lending patterns, digital redlining, racial wage gaps, bias in the criminal justice system, and the list goes on.
In contrast, cities that exceeded median outcomes in the three areas in question generally were located in the south and east, where government job concentration was higher or where private job sectors were thriving.
As City Lab notes:
Of course, no ranking should obscure the fact that there is no city doing complete justice to black women’s lives. According to “The Status of Black Women in the United States” report, produced by The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, black women overall saw their median annual earnings decline by 5 percent between 2004 and 2014 despite the fact that the share of black women with at least a bachelor’s degree increased by 23.9 percent in that same time period. Today, black women earn roughly 61 cents for every dollar made by white men across the nation.
So the question of where black women move is often a matter of which city will fleece them the least.