Opportunity Gap between Blacks and Whites in Wisconsin is among the Nation’s Largest

Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM by

Black Wisconsinites fare far worse than white ones in a wide range of areas, including economic wellbeing, educational achievement, and incarceration, according to a new report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.

The size of the disparities in Wisconsin are alarming on their own. Those disparities are even more alarming when compared to the much smaller gaps between blacks and whites that occur in other states. In nearly all the indicators included in the report, Wisconsin ranked in the top 5 states with the largest racial disparities. Wisconsin had the largest disparities in the country in three indicators, including two in the area of education: 8th grade math scores and dropout rate. Even at a young age, Wisconsin residents are subject to wide opportunity gaps.

The extreme racial disparities in Wisconsin — which the report authors called “brutal” — are relatively new to Wisconsin, and far from a historic inevitability. According to the report,

“Thirty years ago the state generated much better economic outcomes for African Americans, a population group that did better in the state than the national average. Opportunities and outcomes have diverged however to the disturbing chasm that now confronts the state.”

The size and nature of racial disparities in Wisconsin has been the topic of many conversations recently, sparked in part by reports like WCCF’s recent release, “Race to Equity: A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County.”  Another useful report is this one by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which highlights the workforce challenges facing Wisconsin, given that Wisconsin has the highest rate of black male incarceration in the country.

The evidence is growing that Wisconsin offers a very different set of economic opportunities to its black residents than it does to its white residents.  The next step is to target policies at closing the gaps in schools, in the workforce, and in communities.

Tamarine Cornelius








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