Black Social & Economic Mobility by Metro [Income, Police Brutality, & Travel]

The best city for African American advancement is Sacramento. It has a much lower cost of living than other metros and a relatively low police brutality rating compared to other metros on our list. In comparison, with a median Black household income of only $29,100, Pittsburgh is one of the worst cities for African American mobility.

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from S...

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Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • The U.S. Black median household income is $41,361, compared to $63,179 for all races
  • Cities in the Southeast and West have the best mobility stats for African Americans
  • Black unemployment is currently at 16.8 percent, the highest rate in more than a decade

Let us begin by saying: Black lives matter. Tragically, Black lives haven’t mattered as much as other lives in this country since the first slave ship landed in 1619 at the Jamestown settlement in present-day Virginia. This is shown through numerous studies of African American advancement, including looking at the black mobility of ancestors and black middle-class statistics.

Four hundred years later, even the most conservative studies reveal that Black men are 3.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police or other law enforcement agencies across the United States. This mortality rate is unacceptable. We believe that Black lives must matter.

The current focus on Black living conditions in this country led us to wonder: What metro areas in the United States provide the most upward mobility for African Americans?

We are currently facing many challenges as a nation, including a global coronavirus pandemic, an economic recession, and civil unrest around issues of racial and social justice.

But we also believe that when we act armed with the best information available, we can move forward, together, to a brighter future.

That’s why we’re ranking the 10 best and worst metro areas in the United States for African American advancement. We based our metro rankings on five factors:

  1. Black population concentration
  2. Average Black household income
  3. Black mortality at the hands of police
  4. Black car ownership
  5. Overall unemployment

Social and economic mobility is a complicated issue. High crime rates and low quality of life make a city less desirable for the economic activities that drive a region.

This makes class mobility, specifically black class mobility, that much more tough even with programs like affirmative action.  Educated conversations around these issues will help to move us forward, however, and we hope this ranking of the U.S. metros with the most and least Black mobility can be a fruitful part of that conversation.

Unfortunately, living in a bad metro area, such as an area with high rates of crime, can raise your auto insurance rates and makes getting the right coverage important. You can go to our auto insurance coverages page to learn more about what kinds of auto coverages are out there to protect you and your vehicle.

These are difficult times and the last thing you should be worried about is getting a bad auto insurance quote. Between numerous injustices, economic inequality compounded by a recession, and a public health crisis, things are already tough as it is. To find the best rates for your and your area, plug your ZIP code into our online quote comparison tool.

Table of Contents

Metros with the HIGHEST Black Mobility across the United States

We were surprised to find the variety reflected in the 10 U.S. cities that provide African American people the most social and economic mobility when rated for our five indicators. They include measures of class mobility, ranked by major sources like The Brookings Institution.

You can see where these metros are located on the map below.

U.S. metros with the best African American mobility.

The metro areas on this list represent nearly every region of the United States, including the West, the South, and the Mid-Atlantic.

Two large metros in quickly growing Florida, for instance, made the cut, while areas long known for African American mobility—such as Washington-Baltimore and Atlanta—also remain highly ranked.

10 Best Metros for Black Social & Economic Mobility
Metro AreaPopulation% BlackHousehold Income (Black)Vehicle Ownership (Black)Killed by Police (Black)UnemploymentRank
Sacramento-Roseville, CA2,619,7547%$39,90083.6%514.2%1
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC2,238,31522%$42,60089.4%711%2
Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA9,800,39125%$64,58093%439.9%3 (tie)
Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, GA6,631,60432%$54,45689.1%1312.7%3 (tie)
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL6,881,42019%$44,00486.3%313.2%5
Charlotte-Concord, NC-SC2,728,93322%$45,30887.6%1212.7%6
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK7,994,96315%$48,69788.1%2412.8%7
Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, FL3,361,32114%$44,58388.2%916.2%8
Seattle-Tacoma, WA4,853,3646%$57,98083.6%416.7%9
Houston-The Woodlands, TX7,195,65617%$47,46688.1%3414.2%10
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In the table above, metro area is a shortened term for the metropolitan statistical area, an official designation of the U.S. Census Bureau. Black household income is the median income of all households identifying as Black or African American in that metro area.

Black vehicle ownership represents the percent of African American households with a vehicle in that metro area. Under the column “Black People Killed by Police,” the number represents the number of deaths between 2013-2018.

Let’s take a closer look at these 10 diverse cities across the United States.

#10 Good – Houston-The Woodlands, TX

  • Black Percentage of Population: 17%
  • Black Median Household Income: $47,466
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 88.1%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 34
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 14.2%

Starting off our countdown of the cities best for African American mobility is Houston, Texas. Houston is the most populous (and Blackest) city in Texas and the fourth most populous in the United States.

Houston’s current unemployment numbers are on par with the national average, but thankfully, the city has a below-average cost of living.

This means that Houstonians might be more resilient during an economic downturn, such as the current COVID-19-fueled recession.

With 88.1 percent of Black Houston households owning a car, it’s important to have affordable auto insurance to ensure continued mobility. We found that the cheapest auto insurance providers in Houston are USAA and State Farm, with average monthly rates of $244 and $289 respectively.

#9 Good – Seattle-Tacoma, WA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 6%
  • Black Median Household Income: $57,980
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 83.6%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 4
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 16.7%

Seattle’s African American community may be relatively small compared to other metro areas, but that doesn’t mean Black mobility is bad here. With the third-highest Black household incomes, high car ownership, and relatively low police brutality, we found Seattle-Tacoma’s economy to be steady and quality of life to be high.

Seattle is also one of the cities that consistently pushes for progressive reforms through protest movements. From anti-Iraq war protests in the early 2000s to recent Black Lives Matter marches, Seattle is at the forefront of societal change.

Another benefit for all residents of the Emerald City of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle is one of America’s most walkable cities. Walkability not only improves an area’s economy and health factors but also allows for easier movement during protests.

A continued focus on walkability and diversity will continue to help Seattle as it moves into the future. And that future is bright: Seattle is currently the second-fastest growing city among the 50 most populous cities in the United States.

#8 Good – Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, FL

  • Black Percentage of Population: 14%
  • Black Median Household income: $44,583
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 88.2%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 9
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 16.2%

Coming in at number 8 on our list of places with strong African American mobility is one of two Florida metros making the cut: Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach. In fact, African Americans and Latinos are the fastest-growing racial demographic groups in the Sunshine State.

As Florida continues to grow in general, more business opportunities will be available to all Floridians, increasing both incomes and other quality of life factors.

One of the qualities that makes Florida a great place to live and work is the state’s natural beauty, from its beaches to its forests. One benefit for Florida drivers: We found Florida to be one of the best states for driving in the United States.

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#7 Good – Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK

  • Black Percentage of Population: 15%
  • Black Median Household Income: $48,697
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 88.1%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 24
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 12.8%

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area grew by 131,767 between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, alone, making it the fastest-growing region by numeric growth during the most recent reporting period available.

This population growth is reflected in the lower-than-average unemployment rates Dallas-Fort Worth had in the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics findings. Black-owned businesses are growing and diversifying to meet the needs of an expanding population.

For all those car owners in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, it’s important to know that Texas has some of the highest auto insurance rates of any state in the nation.

Our Texas auto insurance guide can help you save money by comparing rates today. The guide also provides valuable state insurance information, from minimum coverage requirements to average rates by demographic.

#6 Good – Charlotte-Concord, NC-SC

  • Black Percentage of Population: 22%
  • Black Median Household Income: $45,308
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 87.6%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 12
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 12.7%

Nearly a quarter of the residents in and around Charlotte, North Carolina identify as African American. The region is quickly growing and, much like Dallas-Fort Worth, a lot of this growth is connected to the city’s airport, an East Coast hub for American Airlines.

Unfortunately, American Airlines has a record of discriminating against Black customers and employees. The NAACP, one of the most prominent African American organizations,  issued a travel warning for any person of color regarding the airline in 2017.

The advisory occurred on the heels of the Rev. William Barber, North Carolina state NAACP chapter president, being removed from an American Airlines flight when he asked a fellow passenger why the man was making racist statements. Barber told the Charlotte Observer:

“Yes, I am not at all happy about what I believe were the real reasons I was the one asked to leave.”

We have hope, however, that racism in the Charlotte region is being taken seriously and fought with fervor. On June 17, 2020, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles—the first Black woman to hold the city’s highest office—signed a proclamation declaring racism a public health crisis.

#5 Good – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL

  • Black Percentage of Population: 19%
  • Black Median Household Income: $44,004
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 86.3%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 13
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 12.7%

Miami’s large African American population faces relatively low unemployment and high rates of car ownership. Given the large overall size of the metro’s population, police brutality is relatively low here.

Following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, a global conversation about police power and brutality ignited. Though the Miami region has better police violence figures than many other comparable areas, leaders and activists still want to change the way policing is done. Rep. Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald:

“We’ve got to think through what we really want in our community. We’ve got to admit that the fear on the part of our black community is a fear on the part of young police officers too. That mutual fear produces unhealthy situations. It’s not just the police, it’s the whole criminal justice system.”

We hope that talking “through what we really want in our community,” as Rep. Shalala says, leads to progressive and positive reforms that make Miami an even better place for the Black community to live and do business.

#3 (tie) Good – Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, GA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 32%
  • Black Median Household Income: $54,456
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 89.1%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 13
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 12.7%

Atlanta, with its large African American middle class and wealth of historically black colleges and universities, has long been considered the capital of Black life in the United States.

The quickly-growing Atlanta metro is not only a center for African American arts and culture but also has a median Black household income, $54,456, well above the national median of $41,361.

Sadly, the city has also become a hotspot for the coronavirus, which disproportionately affects Black communities.

Luckily, the Atlanta area is home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal agency tasked with increasing the health security of the United States and one of the frontline fighters on COVID-19.

In fact, more and more organizations and companies are choosing to call Atlanta home. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Atlanta was the fourth fastest-growing metro area in the United States between 2010 and 2019.

#3 (tie) Good – Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 25%
  • Black Median Household Income: $64,580
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 93%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 43
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 9.9%

Tied with Atlanta for the 3rd spot on our list of the metros with the highest potential for African American mobility is the area surrounding our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Forbes reports that:

“Washington, with its ample supply of well-paid federal jobs, is the metro area where blacks have the highest median household income in the nation.”

Like Atlanta, both Washington and Baltimore have long been centers of Black life in the United States. In fact, Washington’s nickname has long been called Chocolate City, given the large share of the District’s population that identified as African American. This share peaked at 71 percent in 1970, but as gentrification and other forces took hold, that share dropped to 53 percent by 2009.

However, Washington, D.C.’s black roots are deep, ranging from go-go music, poetry, and drama to some of the most important activism taking place anywhere.

One quality of life marker to consider: The Washington area is home to some of the worst traffic in the United States. This leads to higher auto insurance rates, but we’re here to help area residents save money with our Washington, D.C. auto insurance guide.

#2 Good – Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

  • Black Percentage of Population: 22%
  • Black Median Household Income: $42,600
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 89.4%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 7
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 11%

The Research Triangle region of North Carolina lands in the 2nd spot on our list, meaning the Old North State has two metro areas in our top 10.

Education, tech, and biotech dominate the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region, giving the area its nickname, the Research Triangle.

Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University are all major research universities that call the Research Triangle home.

In addition to these centers of learning and innovation, the Raleigh metro is home to several historically Black colleges and universities, including Shaw University and North Carolina Central University, the country’s first public liberal arts college founded for African Americans.

#1 Best – Sacramento-Roseville, CA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 7%
  • Black Median Household Income: $39,900
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 83.6%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 5
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 14.2%

Coming in at the top spot in our metros with the highest Black mobility is California’s capital region, Sacramento-Roseville. Despite having a relatively small African American population, the cost of living in and around Sacramento is much lower than California’s average, and police brutality is much lower than regions of a similar size.

Since 1985, the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce has worked to increase Black business ownership in the region and encourage African American achievements.

Sacramento is the fastest-growing large city in California. That’s saying a lot because California is king when it comes to big cities.

As places like Los Angeles and nearby San Francisco lose population, we think that Sacramento’s minority communities will continue to grow quickly, making life in the capital region better through diversity.

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Metros with the LOWEST Black Mobility across the United States

As we studied the cities with the lowest social and economic mobility for African Americans, we were surprised to see some of the following places make our list.

We know that areas with high crime rates, such as cities with the highest vehicle theft rates, overlap with metros that rank low for social and economic mobility.

You can see where these metro areas are located in the map below.

U.S. metros with the worst African American mobility.

Sadly, many of these places, such as Portland and Salt Lake City, have long histories of some of the worst anti-Black legislation in the country. Other places, like New York and Cleveland, have big problems with police brutality.

Much of the current activism around issues of racial justice and systemic racism, including Black Lives Matter, focuses on police brutality, and rightfully so. The interactive map below compares the rate at which African Americans and white people are killed by the police.

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As you can see, no city is immune to racial disparities in murders committed by police officers. Black people are more likely to be murdered by police than white people in large, mid-sized, and small cities alike.

For instance, Black people are 27.44 times more likely to be killed at the hands of Chicago police than white people; but in Lincoln, Nebraska, that rate rises to 45 times more likely.

10 Worst Metros for Black Social & Economic Mobility

METRO AREAPOPULATION% BLACKHOUSEHOLD INCOME (black)VEHICLE OWNERSHIP (black)KILLED BY POLICE (black)UNEMPLOYMENTRANK
Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV2,615,6568%$29,10064.2%616.3%1
Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, WI2,049,39114%$27,80072.6%1314.5%2 (tie)
Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI9,865,67416%$41,18173.7%5617.5%2 (tie)
Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ2,486,54310%$37,50079.3%1533.5%2 (tie)
Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA18,764,8146%$50,30682.3%3418.8%5 (tie)
Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH3,483,29715%$31,07574.2%823.1%5 (tie)
New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA23,522,86115%$53,63255.7%5515.1%7
Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT2,607,3661%$40,20087.4%NA11.2%8
Portland-Vancouver-Salem, OR-WA3,239,5212%$35,20075.3%414%9
Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD7,204,03519%$41,77269.5%2114.5%10
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Let’s take a closer look at each of these 10 metro areas, which span from the East Coast to the West.

Sadly, many of these cities are losing their Black population to regions that offer better job security, lower costs of living, and less brutal police forces.

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#10 Bad – Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Black Percentage of Population: 19%
  • Black Median Household Income: $41,772
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 69.5%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 21
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 14.5%

Starting off our countdown of the metros with the lowest rates of social and economic mobility for African Americans is the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Though nearly a fifth of the metro area is Black, the Philadelphia region is bleeding population, leading to losses in both jobs and income.

Since 1950 alone, the city of Philadelphia has lost over 600,000 residents.

Only New York and Pittsburgh have lower rates of Black household car ownership, and Philadelphia’s public transit system lags behind other major cities. Additionally, the city has a poverty rate of 13.1 percent, higher than the national average.

With a median age of 38.8 years old, the Philly metro area has one of the oldest populations of any major city in the United States. Our research shows that among licensed drivers across the country, over 33 million are age 65 or older, which means auto insurance for seniors is an important topic to be informed on.

By the year 2030, the number of senior drivers will more than double across the country.

#9 Bad – Portland-Vancouver-Salem, OR-WA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 2%
  • Black Median Household Income: $35,200
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 75.3%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 4
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 14%

The Portland, Oregon, metro region is next up on our list of cities with low Black mobility. Why? Portland has a relatively small African American population. In fact, U.S. News names the city the fourth-least diverse of any major city in the United States.

Portland has one of the lowest Black median household incomes of any place in our rankings paired with a cost of living that is well above the national average.

Today Portland, and Oregon more widely, is known as a progressive bastion. But that view is complicated, to say the least, especially when it comes to African American history. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting:

“In 1844, when Oregon was still a territory, it passed its first Black exclusionary law. It banned slavery, but it also prohibited Black people from living in the territory for more than three years. If a Black person broke this law, the consequence was 39 lashes, every six months, until they left.”

Sadly, this legacy is reflected in the fact that Oregon is nearly 87 percent white. As the Portland metro area continues to gentrify, racial inequities must be a part of the public conversation surrounding what kind of city Portland wants to be. There is a Right to Return initiative, which aims to help displaced African Americans return to the Rose City.

We hope that as programs like Right to Return take root in Portland, the city will diversify and become a better place for Black mobility, both social and economic.

Diversity may be a natural for Portland’s future, as the Rose City is currently the 10th fastest-growing metro area in the United States.

#8 Bad – Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT

  • Black Percentage of Population: 1%
  • Black Median Household Income: $40,200
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 87.4%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: Data unavailable
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 11.2%

Salt Lake City is the whitest place of any area we studied. The metro area is 77 percent white, in fact, with Latinx-identified people making up the second-biggest racial group at 15 percent.

By 2045, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the United States will no longer have a single racial majority.

As you can see in the interactive chart below, the white population share is expected to decline while Black, Hispanic, and Asian population shares are expected to increase in the coming 25 years.

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We know that diversity improves the quality of life for everyone in a city, and we hope that as America continues to become more diverse that places like Salt Lake City will, too.

With a concentrated effort to improve the quality of life for a city’s minority residents, a city can improve the quality of life and business potential for everyone in that region.

#7 Bad – New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 15%
  • Black Median Household Income: $53,632
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 55.7%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 55
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 15.1%

The densely populated area surrounding New York City has been home to some of the biggest African American movements in our nation’s history, such as the Harlem Renaissance, which is an important part of African American culture.

But as the New York City area becomes more expensive and drops in several quality-of-life indicators—from air pollution to commute times—Black people are leaving the area in record numbers.

How expensive is the Big Apple to call home? Manhattan is often on lists for the most expensive places in the United States. Two other New York City boroughs, Queens and Brooklyn, are typically on those lists as well.

For drivers in New York City, auto insurance is also a huge expense. We found that the average resident pays over $624 a month for coverage, which you can learn more about in our guide to New York City auto insurance.

#5 (tie) Bad – Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH

  • Black Percentage of Population: 15%
  • Black Median Household Income: $31,075
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 74.2%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 8
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 23.1%

The region surrounding Cleveland is bleeding population, especially in the African American community. And we’re not surprised. The median Black household income is $10,000 less than the national average, Black car ownership is low in this city with poor public transit, and overall unemployment is nearly 10 percent more than the national average.

Black people in Cleveland are 5.1 times more likely to die at the hands of police than their white peers.

Black Lives Matter Cleveland (BLMC) has proposed 10 action items to increase accountability for the city’s police department.

Though police unions resist things such as increased community oversight and decreased funding, we hope that cities like Cleveland will rethink policing and the role that police departments play in their community.

For some idea of how much money is spent on policing in Cleveland, the city allocates over $217 million a year to its police department.

#5 (tie) Bad – Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

  • Black Percentage of Population: 6%
  • Black Median Household Income: $50,306
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 82.3%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 34
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 18.8%

The second most populous metro region on our list, the Los Angeles-Long Beach region of California, faces many of the same problems as New York City. The metro area is becoming more congested and expensive, decreasing the quality of life for many groups. In fact, demographers find that many people, especially African Americans, are leaving Los Angeles for places such as Sacramento and Phoenix.

Los Angeles also has a notorious lack of public transit options, especially for folks living in historically Black and Latinx neighborhoods.

That means that more residents are being forced to hit the city’s already-congested roadways. Check out our study of Los Angeles auto insurance, where we found that residents have an average monthly auto insurance rate of over $605. With ever-increasing commute times and auto insurance rates, we’re unfortunately not surprised to see Los Angeles make this list.

#2 (tie) Bad – Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ

  • Black Percentage of Population: 10%
  • Black Median Household Income: $37,500
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 79.3%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 15
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 33.5%

Las Vegas makes our list of the cities with the worst social and economic mobility for African Americans largely because of its astronomical unemployment rate.

Since the Las Vegas region depends so largely on tourism, COVID-19 has hit the local economy especially hard. And as we discussed above, the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting our nation’s Black population.

The historically Black neighborhood of West Las Vegas illustrates a long history of government-backed redlining that continues to hurt the African American population.

Community activism around redlining and other issues of social justice is making strides in neighborhoods like West Las Vegas. But such activism becomes even harder as the United States slips into a coronavirus-fueled recession.

That’s why it’s important that we all arm ourselves with information about policing, public planning, and other economic policies as we advocate for change both in the streets and at the ballot box.

#2 (tie) Bad – Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI

  • Black Percentage of Population: 16%
  • Black Median Household Income: $41,181
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 73.7%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 56
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 17.5%

Chicago nears the top of our ranking of the metros with the worst Black mobility for the most tragic indicator we used in this study: The number of African Americans killed by law enforcement officers. Between 2013 and 2018 alone, 56 Black people died at the hands of Chicago’s police forces, more than any other city we studied.

Demands for more oversight on and less funding for police departments will hopefully change the way policing is done nationwide, but especially in places like Chicago.

Tragically we know that if the unacceptable rate of police violence continues in such metros, these cities will continue to struggle to advance both socially and economically.

#2 (tie) Bad – Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, WI

  • Black Percentage of Population: 14%
  • Black Median Household Income: $27,800
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 72.6%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 13
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 14.5%

The Milwaukee region has been facing a population decline in recent years. This decline has led to higher-than-average unemployment and economic hardship. At only $27,800, Milwaukee has the lowest Black median household income of any metro we studied.

Milwaukee also has one of the lowest rates of car ownership by African Americans, which makes living in the area especially difficult given that the metro area doesn’t have a strong public transportation infrastructure.

In the graph below, you can see how vehicle ownership breaks down by race across the United States.

View as image

With 19.7 percent of Black households not owning a vehicle, we can see why many places on this list without reliable and accessible public transportation are struggling when it comes to African American social and economic mobility more broadly.

Lack of public transit options haunts both metro areas at the top of our list with low mobility rates for African American residents.

#1 Worst – Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV

  • Black Percentage of Population: 8%
  • Black Median Household Income: $29,100
  • Vehicle Ownership, Black Households: 64.2%
  • Black Residents Killed by the Police: 6
  • Overall Metro Unemployment: 16.3%

Topping our list of the metros with the worst mobility for African Americans is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steel City has been losing population since the mid-20th century. This population loss has caused big problems for the city’s Black community, especially.

Black median household incomes in Pittsburgh are the second-lowest of any city we studied.

How badly do average Black incomes lag behind other racial groups? In the interactive graph below, you can see how despite rises in average income across all demographics, African Americans make far less on average than any other major racial group.

View as image

Pittsburgh has long struggled to discuss the racial disparities that face the city. For example, two Black journalists were recently fired by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for remarks they made in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd.

The Steel City also has a long history of environmental problems that affect everyone, but communities of color especially. In a recent study of the most polluted cities in America, we found Pittsburgh to be one of the top 15 most polluted metros. Air pollution especially increases rates of asthma and other respiratory issues, which plague the Black population in this country more than any other racial group.

Racial justice in America’s cities is a complicated and nuanced issue with a long history of policies and policing designed to deter the economic and social mobility of Black Americans. Thankfully, there is hope this injustice is changing. Brookings reports that:

“Black-majority cities are rising amid a national conversation surrounding whether they can improve and develop while retaining their black majority.”

We have hope that a multi-racial coalition of activists will continue to get involved in local, state, and federal politics to improve the living conditions of Black Americans, which will ultimately increase the quality of life in the United States at-large.

Professional Advice: Black Social & Economic Mobility by Metro

We asked a variety of experts—such as lawyers and activists—to offer additional insights into African American mobility across the United States. A lot of what they shared challenged our assumptions and is important to thinking through the role we can all play in dismantling systemic racism.

“United Through Dance, the Cast of ‘Over The Rainbow’ Danced For the Life of George Floyd.

In the wake of the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, the diverse cast of the Off-Broadway hit show ‘Over The Rainbow: The Rock Ballet’ united in dance to deliver a powerful message for justice. Their one of a kind artistic message embodies the work of community activists across the United States, using the forum of dance and song to advocate for unity, peace, and equality.

While transitioning to online school, adjusting to social distancing guidelines, and overall coping with these changing times, they nonetheless committed to helping by raising donations in support of The George Floyd Memorial Fund.

Like most kids, the Over The Rainbow Kids are confronted with overcoming obstacles and challenges—they just turn to the arts for courage, purpose, and balance. From diverse backgrounds, they all connected through the love of dance, and are now joining forces to provide social commentary to bring about necessary change.

But in the tried and true spirit of the arts and entertainment, the show must go on – and it has. Determined to continue performing, the dancers adapted, with each cast member—most live in central New Jersey—performing solo at home, with their parents filming videos on their iPhones. Each performance was blended into a video for distribution.

As in the classic story of The Wizard of Oz, aligned with the core message adored by many that whatever a person desires can be found within, these kids seek to convey the same belief to the world through their dance expression.

In this one-of-a-kind virtual message, these kids through commentary are inspiring and educating the world to always look ‘over the rainbow’ and take these times ‘step by step,’ even when it seems like you’re spinning like a ‘bobble head’ making it ‘harder to breathe.’

Through it all, they want to encourage resiliency and give ‘thanks for being a fighter’ against injustices and its effort to ‘rule the world.’ In the end, these kids are advocating that we all will persevere and ‘wash away the pain from yesterday,’ soon to rejoice like ‘crescent dolls’ and return ‘home’ to safer and peaceful times.

Dancing to today’s tunes like these, this cast of talented kids united to make a difference by delivering this novel expression of the arts, as a virtual message necessary for our times.

But the cast’s message goes beyond the stage (and cameras). Recently, members of the young cast held a Zoom call where they discussed the ugly encounters many of them have faced as members of the Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) community. What came through in their first-hand accounts was raw, emotional disillusionment, real pain, fear, and suffering.

Arianna Mubanna, 18, who plays the Lion, told her fellow castmates:

‘My dark skin is not a weapon, and I’m tired of having to prove my worth—I’m tired of having to prove that my life matters. I’m the only black student in my class and feel like others around me live in a bubble.

I remember when I was in the fourth grade a white boy told me that I should still be a slave—I went to the principal. It remains that white people see me as being less than them… 

The white kids that I knew have all refused to see the injustice that’s going on. It’s disheartening to see that the world is fighting over George Floyd’s death because if black lives really mattered, there would be no need for the fighting that’s going on.’

Throughout the call, castmates shared chilling stories about moments they themselves confronted racism as children.

Bailey Kolaras, 17, who stars as Dorothy in the production, shared:

‘I remember when I was in middle school playing chess with friends. A white boy made a comment comparing the white knight to himself and pointing to a black pawn saying in an extremely derogatory tone, “that’s black and so are you.” I felt offended and became very uncomfortable in realizing I was surrounded in a predominately white school and was the only black in sight.

At that moment, I began to question who I was and how best to handle my white surroundings, which was everywhere. And now to see what’s happening today with George Floyd’s death further enforces that the same thoughts from the boy in middle school still exist today, and it’s gotten 100 times worse. 

It seems as if no one really understands what it’s like being black in America nor do they care. And frankly, I’m fed up with racism and disapprove of those who stand by and watch it happen. To stand in silence is just as bad—see something, do something.’

Ryann-Simone Jefferson, 11, who plays one of the lovable Munchkin, said:

‘I just wish that everyone was treated equally, but we’re not. Even kids are not treated nice. When I was at school sitting at the lunch table, white kids would not be nice to me and would refer to me as funny-faced characters, but they didn’t do that to other white kids. They treated me this way because my skin color was different from theirs.’ 

Another fellow Munchkin, Myles Manning, 11, told the cast,

‘I feel like kids are forgotten, and I feel like we don’t have a chance to speak out. I feel like black people are seen only as criminals. When I was in school one day, an Asian boy said to me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was dead and that I should be hung. My principal got involved, but it was still bad for me.

People may not realize that kids are racially profiled just like adults. I remember I would say ‘hi’ to white kids and their parents would pull them away to prevent them from speaking back to me. I would wish that I was white to stop others from making fun of me.

When I walk to school, I am always looking behind and all around me for kids who think I’m a criminal just because of my skin color. I’m scared to walk to school alone because I’m paranoid and afraid of what could happen to me. I’m also afraid for my family. I don’t understand, the Constitution says that we all should be treated equally, but we’re not.’ 

The cast hopes that their message and stories will further the efforts made by countless activists across the United States and beyond. Despite most of the cast being comprised of children, the troupe believes change for justice and equality will come from every generation uniting together to defeat racism.

As Aryan Patel, a 13-year-old playing the Henchman put it,

We’re all humans and should be treated like humans.’

Prior to the death of George Floyd, OTR had designated Save The Children as their official charity to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast also wishes for donations to be made to the Official George Floyd Fund, created by Floyd’s sister.

Additionally, several other great charities that are advancing the goals of justice and equality are the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Black Visions Collective, and the Advancement Project.

Patricia Lawrence Kolaras, Esq. is the President of PLK Law Group. PLK specializes in corporate branding, legal protection, and brand readiness.

Patricia Lawrence Kolaras, Esq. is the president of PLK Law Group.
PLK specializes in corporate branding, legal protection, and brand readiness.


“America is having quite a historic moment now. The African American population is rightfully agitated by the systematic racism and police brutality against their community and coming out on the streets to show their displeasure.

But like any other revolutionary protest, they, too, are facing problems due to the dilution by looters and white supremacists. This should not sideline the main cause of this protest, which is to combat racism.

It is very important to cultivate such an environment that is not only understanding but also sympathetic towards the community. And this environment should not only be inculcated in our homes and offices but in other spaces too.

The basic way to help Black-owned businesses and brands can be done by contributing to them financially. It is important to cut your ties with those business houses and brands that are working against this cause.

Similarly, it is our duty to support and contribute to Black-owned businesses. It is a well-known fact that Black Americans experience dramatically lower upward mobility than white Americans do. No matter what their parents’ income level, Black men earn less than white men on average.

So, what can we do about it?

Hire more Black Americans in every field so as to break the stereotype of their community. The inherent racism is destroying everything and that is very dangerous.

One of the worst cities in the United States when it comes to serving the Black population has to be Milwaukee. It can be noticed that racism is deeply rooted and has penetrated every surface. They have a history of redlining, exclusionary zoning, and discriminatory practices that are contributing to segregation.

Conversely, one of the best places for this community has to be Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, as they have numerous educational universities, hospitals, and are overall better places for the Black community to thrive.”

Jennifer Willie is an editor at the travel information center, ETIA.com. ETIA educates travelers around the world with the latest news and travel requirements.

Jennifer Willie is an editor at the travel information center, ETIA.com.
ETIA educates travelers around the world with the latest news and travel requirements.


What elements help a Black-owned business succeed?

“Black-owned businesses are able to thrive when they are offered equal access to capital and resources.  The critical component of a business’ success is sufficient capital.

Unfortunately, most Black businesses are launched bootstrapped or with very limited funding. There are not adequate resources available including loans to help Black-owned businesses succeed and remain viable in the marketplace.”

What can a city do to increase African American economic and social mobility?

“Cities can invest in infrastructure and provide financial infusion into Black businesses to increase African American economic and social mobility. African American communities are often underserved in healthcare and suffer from income disparities.

Attention is needed to eliminate food deserts, increase affordable health care options, improve public transportation, and provide good-paying jobs to all citizens.”

How is the current recession specifically affecting the Black Community?

“The recession has disproportionately impacted the Black community extremely hard, with unemployment at the highest rate of 16.8 percent and 23 percent of deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Black businesses that are primarily in the service industry have either shut down or permanently closed. Black Americans who are essential workers are forced to risk their lives in an effort to provide for their families. It will take decades to recoup the losses suffered from the recession.”

What metro areas are losing the Black population? What cities are seeing an increase in Black residents?

“Most major cities with higher taxation, crime, and cost of living impacts such as Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, and New York, NY, are seeing a flight of the Black population relocate to more economically affordable metros like Orlando, FL, Birmingham, AL, and Raleigh, NC. These cities offer a better option of living for families and individuals.”

What positive, sustainable changes have you seen cities make or propose regarding law enforcement budgets and policies?

“Changes that have occurred within the last 30 days are proposals to reallocate law enforcement budgets to fund community investment in social programs and services to aid the underserved populations.”

Angelique Hamilton, MBA, is the CEO and Founder of HR Chique Group. Her company helps businesses fortify their brands to develop engaging platforms.

Angelique Hamilton, MBA, is the CEO and founder of HR Chique Group.
Her company helps businesses fortify their brands to develop engaging platforms.


Frequently Asked Questions: African American Advancement

Conversations led by the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice groups are fueling a conversation about racial inequality across the United States. We know there are a lot of questions raised by these conversations, especially around common terminology, and we want to dive into a few of them.

#1 – What is systemic racism or institutional racism?

Systemic racism, often called institutional racism, is the form of racism that is embedded within a society or organization. Systemic racism has many ill-effects in issues ranging from education to criminal justice.

Foreign Affairs reports that:

“A focus on institutions was once a staple of civil rights activism. Stokely Carmichael, a leader in the Black Power movement in the 1960s, coined the phrase ‘institutional racism’ to describe discrimination that ‘originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than [individual racism],’ as Carmichael and the political scientist and fellow activist Charles Hamilton wrote in 1967.”

Race Forward, one of the leading analysis and policy organizations working on issues of racial equity, also offers a great video series on understanding systemic racism.

#2 – What does the phrase “defund the police” mean?

Many organizations are calling for defunding the police, which is a controversial statement for many Americans. However, this controversy is likely a misunderstanding of what it actually means to “defund the police.”

According to Brookings:

“’Defund the police’ means reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality. That’s it. It’s that simple. Defund does not mean abolish policing.”

Of course, this definition naturally poses another question.

#3 – Where would funds reallocated from traditional policing go?

Most current calls to defund the police ask for those funds to be reallocated to often-neglected social services in communities across the United States, particularly historically marginalized communities of color.

According to New York Magazine:

“Defunding the police does not necessarily mean getting rid of the police altogether. Rather, it would mean reducing police budgets and reallocating those funds to crucial and oft-neglected areas like education, public health, housing, and youth services.”

#4 – What are the Blackest cities in the United States?

The five cities with the largest Black population by percentage of the overall city population in the United States are:

  1. Jackson, Mississippi
  2. Detroit, Michigan
  3. Birmingham, Alabama
  4. Miami Gardens, Florida
  5. Memphis, Tennessee

The five U.S. cities with the largest Black population by the number of African Americans are:

  1. New York City, New York
  2. Atlanta, Georgia
  3. Chicago, Illinois
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

You’ll recognize many of these cities from our rankings of the metros with the highest and lowest levels of Black mobility above.

#5 – What percent of the United States is Black?

The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest population estimates put the Black population in the United States at 13.4 percent. Pew Research found that the quickest growing segment of the Black population in the United States is foreign-born. They explain that “a record 3.8 million black immigrants live in the United States today, more than four times the number in 1980.”

#6 – Does race determine auto insurance rates?

Yes and no. Technically speaking, auto insurance providers do not collect racial and ethnic information on folks they sell policies to. Our research shows that the most common information they do collect is your age, your driving history, the type of vehicle you drive, and where you live (your ZIP code).

This last piece of data—where you live—often becomes a basis for racial discrimination, sadly. According to ProPublica:

“A nationwide study by the Consumer Federation of America in 2015 found that predominantly African-American neighborhoods pay 70 percent more, on average, for premiums than other areas do.”

We hope that as conversations about systemic racism continue to spread into individual niche industries that the auto insurance industry will rise to the occasion and revise their policies to be more equitable.

#7 – What affects people’s chances of social and economic mobility?

Numerous factors influence a person’s chances of positive social and economic mobility including geographic location, education, culture, and sex among many different factors. Often, upward mobility presents a challenge when dealing with the social norms of a new social class.

#8 – What affects social mobility?

Frequently, education and class affect social mobility, especially in systems where a person can rise in social status through jobs or other achievement-oriented goals within that society. But one of the factors — wealth inequality — can be a determiner in how much a person can rise socially by gaining a certain degree of education, a certain type of job, or general class contributors.

#9 – How does social mobility affect social inequality?

While studies on this topic have led to inconsistent results, it is often assumed that social inequality is a by-product or contributor to the lack of social mobility in a society. Because of a person’s class, they may be denied jobs or educational opportunities given to someone in an upper class. This can, in turn, affect their mobility.

#10 – How do race and ethnicity affect life chances?

Through studies, it is clear in the United States that being born white has significant advantages compared to other races like Black, Native American, or Hispanic. A white person has a higher than average life expectancy, higher wages, and better educational opportunities.

#11 – What is the key to upward social mobility?

In many countries, upward social mobility is linked to factors within a person’s control, more or less, such as education, higher-paying jobs, and more wealth. These alone can give a person access to people who have a higher social class.

However, some countries don’t encourage upward social mobility through achievable goals like education. In those industries, a person might find it more difficult to gain upward social mobility.

#12 – Which country has the lowest social mobility?

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Social Report, Côte d’Ivoire is the country with the lowest social mobility in the world. It has had its fair share of violent conflicts, with 46.3 percent of the country living in poverty. It also scores the highest gender inequality rate throughout the entire world.

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Complete Rankings: Black Mobility Across the United States

For this study, we looked at 30 of the largest metro areas across the United States and ranked them on a variety of factors regarding Black mobility, both economic and social. From this research, we ranked the 10 metros with the highest and lowest rates of Black mobility.

In the table below, you can see how all 30 of these cities compare on this topic.

Full Study Results: Black Resident Stats & Economic Factors by Metro Area
Metro AreaPopulation% BlackHousehold Income (Black)Vehicle Ownership (Black)Killed by Police (Black)UnemploymentRank
Sacramento-Roseville, CA2,619,7547%$39,90083.6%514.2%1
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC2,238,31522%$42,60089.4%711%2
Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA9,800,39125%$64,58093%439.9%3 (tie)
Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, GA6,631,60432%$54,45689.1%1312.7%3 (tie)
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL6,881,42019%$44,00486.3%313.2%5
Charlotte-Concord, NC-SC2,728,93322%$45,30887.6%1212.7%6
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK7,994,96315%$48,69788.1%2412.8%7
Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, FL3,361,32114%$44,58388.2%916.2%8
Seattle-Tacoma, WA4,853,3646%$57,98083.6%416.7%9
Houston-The Woodlands, TX7,195,65617%$47,46688.1%3414.2%10
Denver-Aurora, CO3,572,7985%$43,40083.6%912.1%11
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA8,841,4756%$59,08376.5%1313.2%12
St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL2,909,03618%$36,33878%3611%13
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI3,977,7909%$31,70073.4%99.2%14
Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI5,353,00220%$35,65678.7%724.4%15
Columbus-Marion-Zanesville, OH2,509,85014%$35,70084.3%2713.7%16 (tie)
Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH-KY-IN2,246,16912%$37,66675.1%814.1%16 (tie)
Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, MO-KS2,486,11711%$35,10083%1711.2%18
Boston-Worcester-Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT8,285,4076%$58,42873.3%915.4%19
Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN2,431,08613%$32,60084.2%1613.3%20
Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD7,204,03519%$41,77269.5%2114.5%21
Portland-Vancouver-Salem, OR-WA3,239,5212%$35,20075.3%414%22
Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT2,607,3661%$40,20087.4%NA11.2%23
New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA23,522,86115%$53,63255.7%5515.1%24
Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA18,764,8146%$50,30682.3%3418.8%25 (tie)
Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH3,483,29715%$31,07574.2%823.1%25 (tie)
Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, WI2,049,39114%$27,80072.6%1314.5%27 (tie)
Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI9,865,67416%$41,18173.7%5617.5%27 (tie)
Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ2,486,54310%$37,50079.3%1533.5%27 (tie)
Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV2,615,6568%$29,10064.2%616.3%30
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As this table illustrates, there are many interesting data points for metros that didn’t make our rankings of the 10 metros with the highest and lowest mobility rates for African American residents. For instance, Black residents of San Francisco have the second-highest median household incomes in the nation.

Methodology: U.S. Metros & African American Advancement

For this study, our research team analyzed more than 11,000 data points from all 50 states across the United States and the District of Columbia to rank the metros with the highest and lowest levels of social and economic mobility for Black Americans.

Our metro rankings are based on five primary mobility indicators:

  1. Black population concentration
  2. Average Black household income
  3. Black mortality at the hands of police (2013-2018)
  4. Black car ownership
  5. Overall unemployment

Our researchers rely on data from a variety of reputable sources. These sources include federal agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Additional insight is brought in through data from industry-leading groups such as Brookings, Mapping Police Violence, Black Demographics, The National Equity Atlas, and SmartAsset.

In most cases, it is important to note that race and ethnicity are self-reported categories. Fortunately, there are rules that auto insurance companies can’t use race as a factor in setting quotes for potential clients. Ready to receive your personalized rate? Just add your information to our quote generator below to get started.

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5-Year Study: White vs Black Murders by Police
The United States' Projected Racial Profile for Year 2045
Percent of Households Without a Vehicle by Race
5-Year Study: Median Household Income by Race
5-Year Study: White vs Black Murders by Police
The United States' Projected Racial Profile for Year 2045
Percent of Households Without a Vehicle by Race
5-Year Study: Median Household Income by Race