Minnesota still has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation

Minnesota can't seem to close the gaps between its white and black residents.

Minnesota can't seem to close the gaps between its white and black residents. David Joles, Star Tribune

Here in Minnesota, we like to think of ourselves as a thriving progressive oasis in the middle of the Midwest. But according to data sourced from several government databases, that’s way less true if you happen to be black.

When it comes to leveling the playing field between white and black residents, Minnesota ranks 47th out of 51 (the list includes the District of Columbia). We only managed to beat, in order, Iowa, Maine, Wisconsin, and D.C. Meanwhile, New Mexico, West Virginia, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Texas are all sitting in the top five.

There’s no one answer as to why we’re so far down; we’re screwing up all over the place. We have the second-worst median income gap in the nation between our white residents and our black residents -- only D.C. beat us to the bottom. Our homeownership rate gap put us at No. 49 (just above Maine and North Dakota) and our poverty rate gap also put us at No. 49, just above Wisconsin and, again, Maine.

But that’s just the economy. We’ve got an additional mess of problems when it comes to education. We're No. 50 for the disparities between who has at least a high school diploma, and we're 44th in the nation for our hefty standardized testing gap.

Sure, you may be thinking, Minnesota is struggling to address inequality. But surely we’re putting in the work to make it better, right?

Unfortunately, no. There’s a ranked list for that, too – how much these gaps have narrowed over the years -- and Minnesota comes in at No. 44. If you really want to pat someone on the back for trying to make things more equitable, give a shout-out to Wyoming, which got the top spot.

It’s not the first time we’ve asked ourselves why we’re like this -- why we can succeed by most other progressive measures and still end up letting our black residents down, one metric after another. Part of it may be that we're still very white as a state. The 2018 Census determined about 7 percent of our residents identify as “black” or “African American alone,” as opposed to the 84 percent who identify as “white alone.”

But more than that, we are still very segregated. Consider Minneapolis, which is roughly 90 percent single-family zoning -- or will be, until the 2040 plan takes effect. Single-family home zoning was originally conceived as a legal way to keep certain neighborhoods as white as possible, and it still works today. Even now, south and southwest Minneapolis -- which have been dominated by racially restrictive covenants in the past -- are still overwhelmingly white.

East Carolina University Professor Mamadi Corra released a statement with the results of WalletHub’s study. The “key to addressing racial inequality,” he says, is first acknowledging that inequality exists, and then taking action. In order to make significant changes, we have to first understand that we’re not as wonderful a place to live as we like to believe. Not for everyone.