Decatur's racial disparities remain unacceptably high
Decatur was ranked as having among the highest levels of racial disparities in the U.S. in a November 2018 USA Today article. Four years later, it is fair to ask: “Have racial disparities changed since the article’s publication?” The USA Today article used 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and noted that median income for Black families was $21,871 compared to $51,662 for White families and homeownership rates for Black individuals were 36.4% compared to 75.9% for White individuals. The unemployment rate was 21.7% for Black individuals and 7.4% for White individuals with 77.6% of Black adults having a high school diploma compared to 91.8% of White adults.
Two local reports published in 2022 reveal that racial disparities in median household income and unemployment remain unacceptably high, but the gap in disparities has shrunk in some factors between 2016 and 2020. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, median household income was $47,854 for White households, $42,143 for Latino households, and $25,250 for Black households. In 2020, 33.2% of Black individuals, 27.5% of Latino individuals, and 13.8% of White individuals were experiencing poverty in Decatur (the U.S. poverty rate was 11.4%). Across all races, Decatur’s overall child poverty rate was 30% (the U.S. child poverty rate was 16.1%).
The unemployment rate was 15.8% for Latino Americans, 14.7% for Black Americans, and 7.1% for White Americans. White Americans owned 84.4% of the owner-occupied housing units and comprised 62.9% of the population, Black Americans owned 11.2% of the housing units and comprised 26.4% of the population, and Latino Americans owned 1.4% of the housing units and comprised 3.1% of the population. The local reports cited above were the “Workforce Development Systems Assessment, Strategy, and Implementation” report published in September 2022 and the “Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy” report released in 2022.
January 17, 2023 is the National Day of Racial Healing and there may be no better time for Decatur, its city council, and citizens to focus on racial healing. According to the National League of Cities, “Through racial healing, we can forge deep, meaningful relationships, lay the groundwork to transform broken systems, and bridge the divides to transform communities for our children and future generations. Racial healing is not only important, but also essential. Because healing is at the heart of racial equity.” Decatur can and must do better in addressing our racial disparities.