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Closing the racial equality gap in Ohio

As Juneteenth approaches, it is important to take a look in the mirror and look at how far we have come (or not) since the end of slavery in 1865. There are plenty of measures to examine. WalletHub’s “State Economies with the Most Racial Equality (2024)” takes a look at the matter from an economic perspective.

Based on the numbers, Ohio does not fare very well. In fact, the Buckeye State is 44th in the country for overall racial equality in the state economy. (Alaska is best, the District of Columbia is worst.)

According to WalletHub, nationwide for every $100 of wealth in white households there is only $15 of wealth in black households.

In addition, “A recent study found that only 7% of managerial positions and 4%-5% of senior managerial positions belong to black Americans, even though that demographic makes up 14% of U.S. employees. The overall black unemployment rate is consistently higher than the white unemployment rate, too,” WalletHub reports.

“The U.S. has come a long way in terms of implementing equal rights, but there’s still a lot of racial inequality in our country when it comes to wealth and employment,” said WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe. “Therefore, it’s important to celebrate and learn from the states that have helped black Americans gain a good financial footing and close the gap with white Americans.”

But how? What can we learn and how can we make a difference?

One expert pointed out housing can be a big piece of the puzzle, and that it is not always federal or state officials creating the challenges.

“Any federal and state efforts to increase housing affordability, that often-thwarted pathway to wealth for minority groups and especially black Americans, must be aligned with local zoning restrictions,” said Robert Wyllie, an assistant professor at Ashland University. “When local authorities do not allow builders to construct affordable homes, the wealth of current area homeowners will continue to grow in proportion to local renters — in so many places around the country, this is what is driving the increasing racial wealth gap.”

Other factors where some states excel include low median annual income gaps, low labor-force participation rate gaps (Alaska is fourth after a three-way tie for first), low unemployment rate gaps (Alaska is first) and low poverty and homelessness gap rates (Alaska is second and tied for first, respectively, in those categories, too).

It’s an impressive performance from a state that did not join the Union until nearly a century after emancipation. Policymakers across the country had better start looking at what it is about Alaska that has allowed it to get this one right.

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