(FinalCall.com) – Looking for the best place for Blacks to live? Look to Columbus, Ohio, as the number one city for Blacks, according to a comprehensive, six-month study conducted by BET.com and BET Nightly News in conjunction with their “Under One Roof” Black family series.
BET looked at U.S. cities with the highest Black population percentages and rated them on a variety of important issues affecting the quality of life for Black families including: poverty and infant mortality rates; high school graduation rates; homeownership; median income and unemployment; teen pregnancy; and crime.
“The uniqueness of this survey is that it was not reader or user-based, but a purely scientific approach that strictly analyzed data surrounding issues of importance to African Americans,” said Retha Hill, vice president of content development for BET.com.
“This study serves as a starting point for serious discussions about how Black families are faring in major urban areas.”
The cities leading the survey tended to have smaller Black communities, such as Columbus, which has a population that is 24 percent Black.
Houston claimed the second spot in the study with Baltimore and St. Louis landing at the bottom of the list. Columbus was cited for its growing community of diverse neighborhoods, high employment, affordable homes and, according to public officials, growing Black population who care about the community so much you couldn’t “pay them to move.”
“We’ve got it going on and I’m proud to say it,” said Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, the first Black mayor in this midwestern city with 174,000 Blacks. “This doesn’t surprise me because our focus is on being the best.
“We have the second hottest job market and we work very hard in the area of housing. When people come to Columbus, they love it and often come back and stay because they love it so much,” added Mayor Coleman.
Low rates of violent crime and high percentages of home ownership also helped boost Columbus and Houston to the top of the BET.com list. Columbus also had the lowest rate of AIDS infection of any of the major cities in the study.
Houston, which is 25 percent Black, had the lowest rate of Black infant deaths and a relatively low percentage of children living in single-parent households (homes typically without fathers living in the residence).
Baltimore, with its high teen pregnancy rate and an AIDS infection rate second only to New York, came in 21st place. But a positive note for Baltimore was its strong base of Black businesses, reflecting the economic strength of the Washington, D.C./Baltimore corridor according to survey findings.
St. Louis, which is 51 percent Black, had relatively high Black unemployment, teen pregnancy and crime rates in 2001. On the bright side of the economic picture, about 48 percent of the 171,000 Blacks in St. Louis are homeowners, however.
Sheila Dixon, president of the Baltimore City Council, was disappointed in how poorly her city fared. “This is somewhat embarrassing, but if this is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what will be,” she said.
Elijah Anderson, social science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City,” said it’s easier to provide a better quality of life in a city whose Black population is largely middle class.
“The cities on the bottom of the list are older, big cities with a great deal of urban poverty,” Mr. Anderson said. “Newer cities like Columbus and Houston have a higher percentage of middle-class Blacks than cities like Baltimore and St. Louis. In communities where you have a concentration of poor people, you are going to have a lot of urban ills.”
Publisher Donald Suggs of the St. Louis American, one of that city’s top Black newspapers, said the city had almost a million residents 40-years-ago and is now down to one-third of that number. “Middle class Blacks have moved to the suburbs,” Mr. Suggs said. “The Black middle class left because this is an aging city and they followed White middle class flight. It was a domino effect, schools went down, housing was aging and the city didn’t renew itself.”
Houston Mayor Lee Brown, Black chief executive of the nation’s fourth-largest city, cited affirmative action as a major contributing factor to his city’s enhanced quality of life. “I’m very pleased we came out Number 2, but we are going to work harder so that next time we’ll be Number 1,” he said.
“The good thing about this city is that when other cities were abandoning affirmative action, Houstonians went to the polls and supported it. Millions of dollars have gone to African American firms here because of affirmative action,” said Mayor Brown.
The study concludes a yearlong series on the Black family entitled “Under One Roof.” The weekly series explored family issues in a cultural and political context on both BET.com and BET Nightly News.
The following is a list of the top 20 cities for Blacks, as determined by the BET.com survey:
1. Columbus, Ohio
6. Los Angeles
7. Washington, D.C.
10. Nashville/Jacksonville, Fla.
13. New Orleans
16. New York
20. St. Louis, Mo.