Wilder’s Compass data: Minnesota’s racial gap among worst

By now, Minnesotans should be getting the message about the state’s dismal racial gaps.

But just in case, Craig Helmstetter, Wilder Research senior research manager, laid it out today at the annual meeting of Minnesota Compass in St. Paul. Compass is Wilder’s data compilation project aimed at measuring progress or lack of it on some of the state’s challenges.

Home ownership. The state ranks third in the percentage of white householders who own their own homes and 45th in the percentage of people of color who do so. The gap is the greatest in the nation.

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Minnesota’s home ownership gap is the nation’s greatest.

Proportion of adults who are working. Among white people, the state is fifth. Among people of color, 22nd. Again, that gap is one of the greatest in the country.

Poverty rate. For white people, 8 percent. That’s ninth in the nation. For people of color, 26 percent. That’s 30th.

High school graduation rates. For white people, 84 percent. For people of color, around half, depending on which minority group you’re measuring.

The graduation rate is actually a gap that has been declining. If the current rates of change continue, Helmstetter said, much of it will be gone by 2030.

But that’s a long time to wait. And Helmstetter showed the power of time combined with demographic change.

Because the percentage of Minnesotans who are people of color is rising, if that group’s standing does not improve, then obviously the state as a whole will decline in these measures.

For example, if the poverty rates remain unchanged for people of color and for white people, then the overall state rate will be dragged up from 11.9 percent to 13.1 percent in 20 years. On the other hand, if the poverty rate for people of color is reduced to the level for white people, then the state overall would have a rate of 8.7 percent.

In the year 2030, Helmstetter pointed out, that’s the equivalent of the population of St. Paul being lifted out of poverty.

There’s work to be done, but among his messages was that working on the gaps brings big dividends.

  • Dennis

    I would be interested in the background of the minority populations used in this analysis. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Minnesota minority population is much newer, in regards to a specific family, than other states with long held populations of migrants that have had the opportunity to establish communities and which have had at least one generation of English speakers.

  • Dave Peters

    Dennis — I asked Helmstetter about your point and he noted a couple things: At least on one measure, yes, the longer immigrants are here, the more likely they are to have employment.

    On the other hand, in Minnesota, foreign-born black people are more likely to be employed than U.S.-born black people.

    So perhaps the mechanism that you suggest is at play is indeed a factor but not the whole explanation.