Report: Segregation and discrimination plague Midwest
Posted October 10, 2019 in Press Releases
Policy can reduce inequity in Ohio and its region
In the 20th Century, people from around the world came to Ohio and the Midwest, seeking opportunity in the industrial boom. Among them were black Americans from the South. Manufacturing and unions helped create good jobs for many black workers, but discrimination and segregation limited that sharply. And when industrial jobs declined, black Midwesterners suffered the most. The result is that in one recent ranking of racial inequality, eight of the 10 worst states, including Ohio, were in the Midwest.
A new report, Race in the Heartland, jointly released by Policy Matters Ohio, the Economic Policy Institute, the Iowa Policy Project and the Wisconsin-based COWS, shows the persistence of racial disparities in the 12-state Midwest region, which includes Ohio. A short Ohio in Focus report homes in on the results in this state.
Although more black Americans live in the Midwest than in the Northeast or the West, on equity metrics, Midwestern states often have higher disparities: black-white gaps on school suspensions, Bachelor’s degree attainment, incarceration, and segregation are all generally bad in the nation and worse in the Midwest.
“Stark racial disparities – and the patterns of segregation and discrimination which underlie them – create real and lasting barriers for black workers and families in the Midwest,” said Colin Gordon, University of Iowa professor and report author. “A strong policy agenda that views racial equity as a fundamental goal can turn our region around.”
Ohio, where 12.3% of residents are black, struggles in several key indicators. The state’s difference between the black and white unemployment rate is 5thlargest in the nation. The gap between what Ohio employers pay white and black workers is larger than in all but 41 states. More than a quarter of black Ohioans who are poor live in high-poverty neighborhoods. In Cleveland and Dayton, concentrated poverty among black people exceeds 40%.
“Our country, region and state can dismantle the barriers that policy has erected to an inclusive economy,” said Policy Matters Ohio Executive Director Amy Hanauer. “Deliberate policy choices have created stark disparities, with much higher poverty, incarceration, and infant mortality and lower incomes, homeownership rates, education levels and wealth accumulation for black Ohioans. We need to force better choices.”
The report recommends a slate of policies to improves schools, jobs, safety nets, neighborhoods, and financial security: Invest in education at all levels and reducing racist practices within schools; Raise minimum wages, labor law enforcement, childcare investment and union-friendly practices to improve jobs; Ease access to Medicaid, food aid and housing assistance; Improve neighborhoods and eliminate exclusionary zoning, and; Remove lending obstacles and make taxes fairer and more adequate.