A new survey released this week is telling the rest of the country what long-time Black residents out of the Triangle already know—Durham, Raleigh, and Charlotte are among the Top 20 cities where Black Americans fare best economically.
In the face of these perennial “best of” lists, the plea from some of the Triangle’s Black residents, particularly in Durham is, “Please, no more.”
We yearn for the good old days, when white folks were afraid to come to Durham, even in the daytime, because they thought the place was “dangerous,” and a hard-working blue collar resident could purchase a sturdy home with a yard and trees for a little over $100,000.
Black folk in Durham always knew our city was one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Now with all these damnable “best of” lists, the city is experiencing a housing shortage caused by an influx of affluent (usually white) newcomers, and the price of available homes is higher than WTVD’s indomitable doppler radar.
Black folks in Durham are being approved for homes they could have purchased in 1998, but today that cute little bungalow on the West End is selling for more than $400,000.
It all began in 2017, when Vogue magazine wrote, “Why Durham Is North Carolina’s Hippest City.” That was soon followed by an avalanche of surveys including citations as one the best cities to live in the country and another that tabbed the City of Medicine one of the best places for young professionals.
This latest study purports to be different. Where are the American cities that are good places to live for Black people?
Well, according to smartasset.com, Charlotte is ranked sixth and Durham eighth, with Raleigh dragging in what is tantamount to third-team All-American, at the 20th spot out of the nearly 130 cities involved in the study.
Virginia Beach, Virginia is allegedly the best of them all.
The study was based on the metrics of wealth and personal finance, and found—no surprise here—that Black folks in America “generally have less.”
Overall, the study shows a grim economic picture for Black Americans, compounded by the pandemic.
The website points to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances that reports the median Black household income is 33 percent lower than the overall median household income, while Black homeownership rate is 22 percentage points lower than the general homeownership rate.
“Data on wealth accumulation depicts even starker disparities,” according to the report. “Black families’s net worth is 87 percent lower than that of white families and 33 percent lower than that of Hispanic families.”
The report also notes that the challenge of accumulating wealth has been exacerbated by COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on both the health and economic well-being of Black Americans.
“The regional economic effects of COVID-19 on Black Americans are difficult to determine due to insufficient localized data, but the available national data paints a grim picture,” according to smartasset.com. “Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that as of December 2020, the Black unemployment rate was 3.9 and 3.2 percentage points higher than the white and overall unemployment rates, respectively.”
The report also notes that the Black labor force participation rate last year was about 2.0 percentage points lower than both white and overall participation rates.
The study determined the cities where Black Americans fared best economically leading up to 2020 by comparing 129 cities across six metrics; income, homeownership rates, labor force participation rates, and poverty rates, along with the percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree and percentage of Black-owned business in each city.
Charlotte has a relatively low Black median household income at just over $46,300. However, the Queen City ranks in the top third of cities for the other five metrics used in the study.
Charlotte has the 28th-highest Black homeownership rate, the 18th-highest Black labor force participation rate, and the 14th-lowest poverty rate for Black residents.
Moreover, the study found that more than 30 percent of Black adults have earned bachelor’s degrees and almost 4 percent of businesses in the larger Charlotte metro area are Black-owned—both of which rank within the top 25 out of all 129 cities involved in the study.
The study determined that Durham held down the eighth spot owing to the percentage of Black adults in the city with a bachelor’s degree, and the percentage of Black-owned businesses in the larger Durham-Chapel Hill metro area.
The study also found that the Black labor force participation rate in Durham is the 30th-highest across all 129 cities in the study, at 69.4 percent, and the Bull City poverty rate for Black residents is 35th-lowest overall, at 18.9 percent.
The study reports that Raleigh is listed as the twentieth best city for Black Americans.
The website reports that Black residents in the city have a median income of $45,818, and a home ownership of 35 percent. The study also reports that nearly 33 percent of Black adults have earned a bachelor’s degree, and more than three percent of the businesses in the city are Black-owned.
By comparison, the study found that top-ranking Virginia Beach has the seventh-highest median Black household income, at roughly $65,600, and the sixth-highest 2019 Black labor force participation rate, at 78.7 percent. Moreover, Census Bureau data shows that the 2019 poverty rate for Black residents in Virginia Beach is 10 percent—fourth-lowest in the study—and that in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metro area, more than five percent of the businesses are Black-owned, the seventh-highest percentage overall.
Meanwhile, the study reports that Grand Prairie, Texas—which tied with Virginia Beach for the top spot—is the city where Black Americans fare best in some economic terms.
Grand Prairie has the fourth-highest Black labor force participation rate at nearly 80 percent, and the lowest Black poverty rate at less than 5 percent of all 129 cities in the study.
More than a third of Black residents in Grand Prairie have their bachelor’s degree and the median Black household income is more than $63,000.
That said, keep your heads up, dear Black residents of the Bull and Queen cities. (Insert swift kick in the pants here to Charlotte for allowing the CIAA Tournament to move to Baltimore last year.) It could be worse. Durham and Charlotte’s African American residents could be living in Raleigh, a vapid, soulless place where I’d argue that—the smartasset.com study notwithstanding—Black folks are tolerated, not celebrated. We may not want or need a study like this, but at least they ranked Durham twice as high as the City of Oaks.
Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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