Pandemic Threatens Black Middle-Class Gains

By: - July 21, 2020 12:00 am

Ponder’s Cleaners in Atlanta, a Black-owned family business since 1970, was forced to cut back because of the pandemic. Minority-owned businesses have closed at a higher rate than their white counterparts, threatening recent growth of the Black middle class. Branden Camp/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

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The Black middle class has made strides in recent years toward economic parity with whites in 34 states, a new Stateline analysis has found.

But the pandemic threatens that progress, as Black professionals and businessowners lose their livelihoods at greater rates than their white counterparts.

The middle-class analysis covers changes in household income from 2013 to 2018, the latest year available, based on microdata from the American Community Survey, provided by the University of Minnesota at

The parity varied widely by state.

Among states with at least 5% Black population, the share of Black households in the middle class was only 3 percentage points behind their white counterparts in California, Georgia and Texas. Florida and Maryland had 4-point gaps.

Middle-class income for a three-person family ranges from about $35,000 to $104,000 in Mississippi to about $65,000 to $192,000 in Maryland, the state with the highest median income.

The racial gulf was much wider in Minnesota, at 23 points: 56% of whites were in the middle class, compared with 33% of Black households. The spread was 21 points in Wisconsin, 17 points in the District of Columbia and 14 points in Ohio.

The smaller gaps may indicate states with growing job markets where Black professionals have moved in search of opportunity and affordable housing, and with policies that have helped Black businesses thrive, such as loan guarantees and procurement contracts friendlier to small businesses.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.