Minneapolis has nation’s highest racial disparity in unemployment

by Danielle Nordine

Minneapolis has the biggest racial gap in unemployment in the nation, according to a study released Tuesday by the Washington, D.C. think tank the Economic Policy Institute. Blacks in Minneapolis are more than three times more likely to be unemployed than whites, with the unemployment rate for blacks at just over 20 percent while unemployment rates among whites was at 6.6 percent, the study showed. The nearly 14 percent difference between the two groups puts Minneapolis at the highest disparity among the 50 national metropolitan areas studied, while Memphis came in second with a 10.5 percent difference.

The city of Minneapolis is aware of the issue and already has programs in place to combat the problem, Ward 2 Councilmember Cam Gordon said on his blog. Gordon mentioned the City-County Equity in Employment Action Team, a group established in 2008 that aims to reduce the economic disparities between minorities and majorities. The city also received $4 million this spring for its Employment and Training Program, Gordon wrote, which will help train 500 residents for employment in local businesses.

"Racial disparities in employment and poverty is a persistent and serious problem, for some reason more serious in our area than in the rest of the country," Gordon wrote. "It is going to take a large scale, long term and smart collaborative effort to find a solution."

The study’s author, Algeron Austin, wrote that education disparities could not necessarily be blamed for the unemployment gap. "Even if blacks had the exact same educational profile as whites in Minneapolis, they would still have a much higher unemployment rate," Austin said in the study.