Milwaukee ranks at the bottom of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas on measures of well-being for African Americans, a study commissioned by the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee, with support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, finds.
Conducted by Marc Levine, professor emeritus and founding director of the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, the AALAM/UWMCED Index of African American well-being in the nation's largest metropolitan areas (38 pages, PDF) includes composite scores for fifty cities based on thirty indicators of well-being for African Americans in four categories: employment; income, poverty, and social conditions; community health; and conditions for youth and children. According to the index, Milwaukee ranks last or near the bottom on both the composite score and across nearly all indicators.
Among the fifty metro areas analyzed, San Jose ranked first overall, followed by Boston, Raleigh, Providence, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Milwaukee ranked at the bottom overall by a wide margin, followed by Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. Contributing to Milwaukee's last-place ranking was the worst Black poverty rate among the fifty metro areas (33.4 percent), lowest Black household income adjusted for cost of living ($31,052) and as a percentage of white household income (42 percent), highest incarceration rates for young African-American adults born into poverty (17 percent) and the middle class (11 percent), second-lowest Black homeownership rate (27.4 percent), and second-lowest percentage of Black households with annual incomes above $100,000 (7.7 percent). The only indicators for which Milwaukee ranked mid-range or above were uninsured rates for children (sixth) and adults (twenty-sixth) and mortality rate from heart disease (twenty-first).
The study also found that factors associated with higher rankings for African-American well-being include greater Black representation among private-sector managerial and executive positions, higher Black educational attainment, a higher share of African Americans living in suburbs, higher rates of GDP growth, and higher rates of Black business ownership. Factors associated with lower rankings include higher levels of Black-white residential segregation, higher high school dropout rates among African Americans, larger Black share of the overall population, and higher percentages of African Americans living in the urban core.
"[T]he climb towards making Milwaukee a top-city for African Americans will be a steep one, especially in a relatively short period of time," Levine writes. "But our preliminary analysis suggests that with a strategic focus on reducing metro area segregation, increasing Black economic leadership, and improving the educational attainment of the region's African Americans, major gains could be made on the road to racial equity."