By Ryan Velez
San Francisco is seen by many as one of the most desirable, but also most expensive cities in the country to live. An article from Hoodline shows that while the city has fallen out of the highest levels of income disparity, this pleasant fact doesn’t apply to Black people at all.
The news comes from a study put by the Brookings Institution, a comparative index of employment among 18-to-64-year-olds in localities with more than 500,000 people. The study indexed the highest and lowest national employment rates by region, and then compared employment rates in those same regions by race—white, Black, Latino and Asian.
The results showed a major contrast in terms of employment rates. The city boasts the ninth-highest general employment rate in the country (79 percent), but also has the highest employment disparity between Blacks and whites in the country. 84 percent of white San Franciscans are employed, compared to 53 percent of Black San Franciscans. The only city in the survey below this was Detroit, at 50% Black employment, but the rate there is only 51% overall.
In terms of the divide, only Chicago came close to San Francisco, with a 27 percent spread (83 to 56 percent white-to-Black). Latinos and Asians in San Francisco weren’t in the top or bottom 15% nationally. There’s also one worrying addendum to the story: only 4% of all San Franciscans are Black, and this number has been slowly on a decrease over the last few decades.
The takeaway, the study’s authors said, was that “positive top-line employment numbers at the national or regional levels do not tell the whole story.” They called for the urgency of “complex, long-term work of devising and delivering more inclusive economic growth strategies.”
For San Francisco, by the time these come to pass, there may be no significant Black population to help. However, what this can do is prompt other cities with large Black populations to try and examine their own data, allowing them to see employment disparity. It will be interesting to see if studies like these lead to further discussion of these initiatives on the political stage, as well as the academic.