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September 2, 2014, 8:01 am

Phila. region scores F for racial parity

Urban Institute study finds wide differences in employment, education


Scoring an F in four out of five categories, Philadelphia and the surrounding region has been ranked 91st out of 100 of the nation’s top metropolitan areas in terms of racial equity between Blacks and whites, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.

The root of the problem seems to be a disconnect between Blacks and whites that starts with where they live, and ultimately affects every aspect of their lives.

“Segregation in the Philly region is extremely high,” said Margery Turner, vice president for research with the Urban Institute. “Up in the sixties, that’s high by national and historic standards. When you have segregation that high it’s not that surprising that you see big differences in neighborhood-related factors.”

Philadelphia was combined with Camden, N.J., and Wilmington, Del., in a region consistent with the metropolitan region recognized by the U.S. Budget Office.

The report graded the area with percentage and letter grades in five categories: residential segregation, neighborhood income gap, school test gap, employment gap and homeownership gap.

Philadelphia received an F in every category except homeownership, where it received an A.

Percentage scores were: residential segregation, 67 percent; neighborhood income gap, 38 percent; school test gap, 68.9 percent; employment gap, 19.8 percent and homeownership gap, 33.1 percent.

Those marks resulted in an overall grade of F from the Urban Institute.

For Turner, residential segregation was a key factor. Segregated neighborhoods led to segregated schools.

“The schools that Black and Latino children attend, on average, are performing much more poorly on state tests than the schools that white children attend,” she said.

That in turn led to decreased access to good paying jobs.

“Those factors contribute to wide gaps in opportunity,” said Turner. “Working age whites are much more likely to be employed than working age Blacks.”

Which creates a cycle that many African Americans are unable to break.

“A result is that they are not going to be able to afford to live in better, more integrated neighborhoods. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of inequality.”

Raw data included in the report highlighted the inequities in the metropolitan region. For instance, the median annual income of a white family was listed as $72,967 and for a Black family as $45,219. Employment rates for working age white adults were reported at 61.5 percent; that figure fell to 49.3 percent for working age Black adults. Homeownership also lagged for African Americans with 50.1 percent of Black families owning their own homes compared to 76 percent for white families.

Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the country, was not alone in its low scores.

Houston garnered the best score out of the nation’s most populous cities, earning a C and the 53rd slot on the list. New York City also garnered an F and at 96th on the list, was ranked lower than Philadelphia. Los Angeles hit the list in the 74th position, with a grade of D. Chicago ranked 99th out of 100 with an F.

Other Pennsylvania cities scored better: Harrisburg came in 79th on the list and got a letter grade score of a D; Scranton and Bethlehem/Allentown both scored Bs and were ranked 29th and 33rd respectively.

The trend in Pennsylvania was mirrored nationwide, with smaller cities generally scoring higher than larger metropolitan areas.

“The top scorers are mostly small- to medium-sized metros in the south and west,” said Turner. “While the worst performers are big metros in the midwest and northeast.”

The same report also graded Philadelphia for equity between Latinos and whites and reported similar results.

Addressing the trend is crucial for the nation’s future, she said.

“Our country is becoming increasingly diverse, that is our future,” she said. “The children of African-American, Latino and other minority groups are our country’s future. We should all really care about narrowing these opportunity gaps.”


To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .