Urban Dynamics Blog

Skewing Black: Median Household Income Disparities in Minneapolis

By Matt Johnson

I’m pretty sure both my liberal and conservative readers have a natural intuition for the disparities between black Americans and white Americans who live in cities.

And for good or for bad, your intuition has probably been influenced by culture, the mainstream media, social media, and Hollywood. You are aware that black Americans reside in these economically depressed systems. And as you know, some people acknowledge these economic differences by using vernacular code by saying “Hey! That part of town is a bad part of town,” which is accompanied by some acute knowledge of what group resides there.

If your response is to think this economically depressed system is mostly inhabited by black Americans, then you’re probably right. This isn’t to say you’re some sort of racist – this is the reality we face. In fact, this acknowledgment probably has more to do with your recognition of reality (you’re better off recognizing socio-economic disparities than ignoring them). And if you’re like most people I talk to, you’re frustrated by the reality of this situation.

Tho whole situation probably feels obdurate to you. What do you do about it? That’s a good question to ask yourself. Keep it close to you and don’t let it go. It’s good motivation, and it means you care.

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What I’m going to do over the next few blogs is provide you with some motivation in the form of data, and lots of it. By the time we’re finished, and probably before then, you will be asking lots of questions. What will those questions be? I will leave that to you for your own personal exploration of this topic, although I’ll throw some questions in from time to time just to keep the thinking process going.

Our first city for this series “Skewing Black” will be Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m from Minneapolis so this town is near and dear to my heart. And no! I don’t have a “Minneso-tah” accent; at least, not while I’m talking to my friends from Southern California. But I digress.

So without further delay, here is the Median Household Income data for Minneapolis:


Graph 1

Here is the Median Household Income data for white residents of Minneapolis:


Graph 2

And finally, here is the Median household Income data for black residents of Minneapolis:


Graph 3

As you can see, the graph is skewing right for black households in Minneapolis. In fancy pants mathematical terms, we say the graph has a right-skewed distribution. Either way, it’s pretty terrible.

And as the data illustrates, Most black residents in Minneapolis are low-income earners compared to white residents, and the income earners of the rest of the city in general.

For instance, an average Minneapolis household has about a 30 percent chance of making below $30 thousand per year according to Table 1. In contrast, an average white household has about a 20 percent chance of making below $30 thousand per year according to Table 2 and an average black household has about a 66.5 percent chance of making below $30 per year according to Table 3.

To put these differences into perspective, an average black household will take home 30 percent less than the average Minneapolis household and 40 percent less than the average white household. This is a rather large difference no matter how it’s viewed.

You can also see this difference in median household income between an average Minneapolis household, an average white household, and an average black household becomes much more pronounced as household income increases.

The difference between households at the upper quartile (I broke the data into quarters to provide a different perspective of the data) is astonoshing. An average Minneapolis household is nearly 5 times higher than an average black household; and an average white household is nearly 6 times higher than an average black household.

And one final thought, this single variable of median household income doesn’t address the differences in other adverse socio-economic factors, nor does it address the differences of the median household income differences at different levels of the system

Anyway, I hope the skewing distribution of black median household income has rattled your chain. I hope the title was provocative enough to help you remember that many of the socio-economic data sets we will be encountering in this blog will be right-skewed distributions, or skewing black.

Remember, Minneapolis is just the beginning of our trip around the United States. And as you’ll see, it’s pretty much going to be like this city after city. Here comes some motivation for you!


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo credit: Wikipedia




Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist


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