Data show disparities between Black and white Minnesotans in education, income, criminal justice are among the worst in the nation

By: - June 8, 2020 6:03 am

Protestors tried to storm I-35W S, while police tried to hold the line. The George Floyd killing has drawn scrutiny of Minnesota’s big racial disparities. Photo by Macklin Caruso/Minnesota Reformer.

George Floyd’s death after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes sparked outrage and protests in Minnesota and across the world.

Although the local demonstrations are ostensibly about Floyd’s death, they’re fueled by decades of frustration and anger at the state’s well-documented inequities for Black Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color.

Minnesota boasts of its quality of life, but conditions aren’t so ideal for all residents — the North Star state’s racial disparities in education, income and housing are among the worst in the nation. And like nearly every other state, data strongly suggest Minnesota’s policing and broader criminal justice system are unequal. 


Minnesota’s public schools are renowned as some of the nation’s best, but the education system’s failure to educate students from marginalized communities is especially evident in outcomes for Black, Indigenous and Latino children.

The state’s education disparities have been the subject of much discussion by elected officials, nonprofit groups and the education establishment for years — with little improvement. With students of color comprising a larger and larger share of the state’s student population, however, the issue has taken on an increased sense of urgency.

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Black Minnesotans tend to have lower incomes than white Minnesotans and are more likely to live in poverty. Nationally, the racial income gap has narrowed since the mid-20th century, but factors like access to higher education, hiring and workplace discrimination, and historic wealth inequality still affect Black workers’ wages, experts say.

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Minneapolis has the largest gap between Black and non-Black home ownership rates in the United States, according to an analysis by Zillow.

In Minneapolis, the Black home ownership rate trailed the non-Black rate by 51 points, a significantly larger gap than those in the second- and third-worst metros, where the rates differed by about 40 points. The Black home ownership rate in Minneapolis is 22%, half the national rate.

And among renters, Black renters are more likely than any other racial group to spend significant portions of their income on rent. More than half of Black renters spend at least 30% of their wages on rent, according to the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Criminal justice

Minnesota also has significant racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

Black residents are more likely to be incarcerated than white residents, and an ACLU report found that Black Minnesotans were five-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents — the eighth-worst disparity in the nation.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, Black residents are disproportionately pulled over and searched, and Black residents are also disproportionately the subject of police use of force.



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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.