Another day, another study:
African Americans and Latinos are more likely to have jobs, live in better-off neighborhoods and attend better-performing schools in small to medium-size metro areas in the South and West, according to an Urban Institute report out today. The Washington think tank found the “opportunity gap” that separates blacks and Latinos from whites is greatest in the Midwest and Northeast. The study was based on five factors: residential segregation, neighborhood affluence, public school quality, share of employment and share of homeownership.
“The story of both opportunity and challenges in the U.S. varies widely from one metropolitan area to another,” says Margery Turner, the institute’s vice president for research, who conducted the study. “Many blacks and Latinos are overcoming barriers. There are many success stories … but gaps remain, and they are significant.” The study identified the metropolitan areas where the gap between blacks and whites is narrowest: Albuquerque; El Paso; and Lakeland, Fla. The widest gaps: Milwaukee, Chicago and Buffalo.
For Latinos, the slimmest gaps are in Melbourne, Fla.; Pittsburgh; and Portland, Maine, The widest: Springfield, Mass.; Hartford, Conn.; and Providence. Charles Becknell Jr., an African-American studies professor at the University of New Mexico, disagrees that Albuquerque has more opportunity for blacks. He grew up there. He says more attention goes to the larger minority populations of Hispanics and Native Americans. He points to the percentage of professors designated for tenure at the university in 2010: 2% were black, 71% white. “Without looking at the data, I find it pretty unbelievable,” he says.
The report from the liberal Urban Institute comes three days after a study by the conservative Manhattan Institute found that black segregation from other racial groups has hit its lowest point in more than a century, but social and income inequality persist. Duke University professor Jacob Vigdor, co-author of the Manhattan Institute report, says Americans should debate a bigger issue: equality vs. prosperity. Where there is more equality between races, he says, part of the explanation is that those metro areas are poor overall. He says, “We need to help increase everyone’s income.”