The typical black family in Minneapolis earns less than half as much as the typical white family in any given year. And homeownership among black people is one-third the rate of white families.
As a result, many black families have been effectively locked out of the prosperity that the city’s overwhelmingly white population enjoys.
The median black family income in Minneapolis was $36,000 in 2018, according to Census Bureau data. Though that figure compares favorably with black families in many other U.S. metro areas, it is a far cry from the nearly $83,000 a typical white family in the city would earn. The $47,000 difference is one of the largest such gaps in the nation.
In percentage terms, the typical black household earns only 44 percent as much as the typical white one. Of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, only Milwaukee in neighboring Wisconsin has a larger gap between black and white earnings.
Because families must make money to save money, Minneapolis’s black-white income gap is mirrored in wealth data — in this case homeownership rates because homes are the primary component of middle class wealth.
Roughly one-quarter of black families in Minneapolis own their home, which is one of the lowest black homeownership rates in the United States. The city’s white families, by contrast, have one of the nation’s highest rates at 76 percent. The resultant gap works out to more than 50 percentage points. Only Madison, Wis., and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa., have larger gulfs.
The roots of these disparities run deep: In the first half of the 20th century, for instance, real estate transactions in many Minneapolis neighborhoods were bound by provisions that limited ownership to white families. “The said premises shall not at any time be sold, conveyed, leased, or sublet, or occupied by any person or persons who are not full bloods of the so-called Caucasian or White race,” as one common provision put it.
Before these covenants, “Minneapolis was not particularly segregated,” according to the authors of the University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice project. But “as racially-restrictive deeds spread, African Americans were pushed into a few small areas of the city. And even as the number of black residents continued to climb, ever-larger swaths of the city became entirely white.”
Though no longer enforceable, those covenants continue to shape settlement patterns in the Twin Cities to this day.
The city’s black communities were suppressed in other ways, too. In the 1950s and 1960s, city planners devastated the historically black Rondo neighborhood by running Interstate 94 down its main thoroughfare. “One in every eight African Americans in St. Paul lost a home to I-94,” according to the Minnesota Historical Society, and “many businesses never reopened.”
The devastating disparities in the Twin Cities are well-known and much discussed, but addressing them has proved challenging.
“One only has to look at the faces of the African Americans living in impoverished neighborhoods, attending failed schools, over represented in a broken criminal justice system, and suffering from covert and overt employment discrimination on a daily basis to see that not everyone is enjoying the prosperity of Minnesota,” as the state NAACP presciently warned in a report in December. “If the growing disparities, in education, economics, criminal justice are not addressed immediately our children will not have a future.”
That same sense of despair is etched on the faces of demonstrators in Minneapolis, where Floyd died Monday, as protests raged into Friday. Similar scenes also have played out in Washington, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Detroit and beyond, resulting in widespread property damage, numerous injuries and at least one death.
“In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard,” as Martin Luther King put it. “And what is it that America has failed to hear?”
Andrew Van Dam contributed to this report.