North Carolina, with liberal enclaves like Chapel Hill and a national political profile as a "purple" state, tends to think of itself as a more progressive place than South Carolina.
A new study out today suggests we might want to think again. The report, from consumer finance website Wallet Hub, ranks South Carolina far more favorably in measuring states with the highest and lowest financial gaps by race and ethnicity. Wallet Hub reached that conclusion after studying 21 metrics across all states, including unemployment rates, home ownership rates, household income rates and educational attainment figures.
The result: Florida comes in at No. 1, having the smallest overall income gaps by racial and ethnic groups. South Carolina ties with Indiana for the 27th spot. North Carolina lands at No. 39, just below North Dakota and just above Georgia. Key stats for North Carolina:
- A 37.41 percent gap in median household income between whites and blacks.
- A 42 percent gap in home ownership rates between whites and Latinos.
- A 177 percent gap in poverty rates between whites and Latinos.
- A 60 percent gap in highest educational attainment between whites and Latinos.
The study doesn't spell out exactly why North Carolina might fare better or worse than other states on specific measures. But Wallet Hub did ask several economists and scholars for their overall take on the persistence of financial inequities in America. The growth in real estate values and the rise of the tech economy have contributed to the widening of the wealth gap, several said, since minorities still lag in home ownership and higher education.
One of the experts questioned was Omar Ali, a history professor in the African Diaspora Studies program at UNC Greensboro. Interestingly, he singled out the two major political parties, which he said essentially work in tandem to promote the interests of wealthy individuals and companies that finance their political campaigns. He suggests their policies -- even those by a sitting African American president -- tend to boost established powers more so than the interests of the disadvantaged, who tend to be mostly people of color.
"But it's not the wealthy who are to blame," he adds. "They are simply doing what's most rational (I'm not saying ethical); the problem is at the public policy level, where the parties (which are private entities) have substituted themselves as public entities. We need to increase the power of ordinary voters and decrease the power of the parties in the U.S."
What do you think? Are you surprised that South Carolina ranks better on these measures than North Carolina? Does Ali have a point?