African American Poverty Rates Per HBCU State

HBCUs and strategic PBIs comprise 23 states in the Unites States along with the Virgin Islands and Washington D.C. HBCU Money decided to take a look into the African American poverty rates and overall poverty rates for each state where an HBCU operates. Included are states of California (Charles Drew University), Illinois (Chicago State University), New York (Medgar Evers College), and Massachusetts (Roxbury Community College) which are also states with significant African American populations. The results of these states show a median poverty rate of 34.6 percent for African Americans versus 20.3 percent overall which are show in parentheses per state. There are seven HBCU states where the African American poverty rate is 2X the general population.

Alabama – 40.1% (24.6%)

Arkansas – 35.9% (22.5%)

California – 28.6% (18.1%)

Delaware – 28.0% (18.5%)

Florida – 31.7% (20.3%)

Georgia – 30.9% (21.0%)

Illinois – 37.5% (17.0%)

Kentucky – 34.6% (22.4%)

Louisiana – 47.1% (28.0%)

Maryland – 19.5% (12.0%)

Massachusetts – 24.0% (13.5%)

Michigan – 41.2% (19.7%)

Mississippi – 42.5% (26.9%)

Missouri – 37.6% (18.6%)

New York – 30.8% (19.7%)

North Carolina – 32.3% (21.2%)

Ohio – 42.1% (20.1%)

Oklahoma – 40.2% (21.5%)

Pennsylvania – 32.7% (17.0%)

South Carolina – 36.7% (22.6%)

Tennessee – 37.0% (21.2%)

Texas – 26.4% (20.9%)

Virginia – 28.3% (14.0%)

Understanding the African American poverty rates is vital for HBCUs and alumni because it means many of our resources for students may need to be targeted toward the unique climb that many African American families face as they send students coming from impoverished backgrounds to college. Things such as travel to and from school during breaks, proper funding for nutrition beyond meal planning, adequate clothing and technology, and stronger life planning resources. The latter being significant because for many of these students they will be creating the foundation for their family. How do you do what nobody in your family has ever done? How do we help the families so that they do not overburden the student? While no formal evidence is know, there is anecdotal evidence that suggest a significant amount of HBCU students are likely sending portions of their financial aid or refunds home to help family members. This notion is supported by research from Thomas Shapiro in his book, “The Hidden Cost of Being African American”, where his research shows that African Americans pass money backwards generationally more than any other group.

Beyond just our students though, HBCU alumni should be creating mediums to help HBCUs be in a position to create social capital in our communities. Imagine for a moment, (Insert Your HBCU) Community Center – funded by HBCU alumni – that serves as a place for K-12 students and their families to receive community resources. This can be a place that provides internships for HBCU social work students, interdisciplinary research opportunities, and again an opportunity to position HBCUs as part of the community leadership and endear themselves in African American communities so that as children are aging HBCUs are at the forefront of their mind. For HBCUs this can be an opportunity that allows for the encouragement of more tangible giving projects for alumni and hopefully creating another means to increase alumni giving.

It must be taken into account that building wealth and reducing poverty are not the same thing, but they certainly dance with each other. Our families, communities, and institutions are often digging themselves out of significant holes that contribute to a lot of other issues we see ailing us. The first step for HBCUs, as one set of institutions part of a greater African American institutional ecosystem, is that we must understand there is a problem and look for ways that HBCUs can work with other African American institutions as well as work within our lane of community development in addressing African American poverty.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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