Many of the metro areas at the bottom of the Forbes list are the once mighty manufacturing hubs where Southern Blacks flocked in the Great Migration: last place Milwaukee, followed by Grand Rapids, Mich.; Cincinnati (50th); Pittsburgh (tied for 48th) Cleveland (47th) and Buffalo (46th). African-Americans in these old industrial towns earn on average $10,000 to $15,000 less than their counterparts in Atlanta. Self-employment rates are half as high as those in our top 10 cities.
Of course, none of this is too surprising, given the long-term economic malaise in the Rust Belt. But some of our most prosperous metro areas are also not working out well for Blacks. These include San Francisco-Oakland, which tied with Pittsburgh for 48th, Los Angeles (40th) and Seattle (36th). In these cities, homeownership rates for African-Americans tend to be 10 to 15 percentage points lower, and self-employment close to half of what we see in greater Washington, Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte and the four big Texas cities.
Blacks populations have declined in some of these metro areas, including San Francisco, which has seen a 9.1% drop since 2000, and Los Angeles, where the African-American population has fallen 8%. Chicago (31st), long a major center of Black America, has seen a 4% drop since 2000, while the Black population of the New York metro area (24th) has grown just 2.4%. Places like Los Angeles and the Bay Area are losing Black population because of their high housing prices. Hollywood stars and tech titans may not mind, but it’s tough for most everyone else to buy a house in the big California cities and New York. Housing prices in Atlanta and Houston, relative to incomes, are about half or more less than those in the Bay Area.