Forbes Magazine has released the 2018 edition of the 10 best cities where African Americans are faring well in economic advancement. Not surprisingly but woefully underreported in most mainstream and black media outlets, every one of the cities to make the list has at least one historically black college campus.
By Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox The 2007 housing crisis was particularly tough on African- Americans , as well as , extinguishing much of their already miniscule wealth. Industrial layoffs, particularly in the Midwest, made things worse. However the rising economic tide of the past few years has started to lift more boats.
The numbers orbit several areas of financial well-being. From Forbes:
To determine where African-Americans are faring the best economically, we evaluated America’s 53 largest metropolitan statistical areas based on three critical factors that we believe are indicators of middle-class success: the home ownership rate as of 2016; entrepreneurship, as measured by the self-employment rate in 2017; and 2016 median household income. In addition, we added a fourth category, demographic trends, measuring the change in the African-American population from 2010 to 2016 in these metro areas, to judge how the community is “voting with its feet.”
So why does it matter that these cities have black college campuses? Becuase the back story to many of these economic drivers is their ties to HBCUs at primary or secondary levels, mostly through educational attainment and income earnings.
The south rules the list because the cost of living throughout many of these communities is far more manageable than former Great Migration cities like New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and others.
“The city is the black man’s land,” reads one capsule in an exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Its curator explains why design is a critical part of the post-1968 urban and suburban landscape-and the museum itself.
But these specific cities’ HBCUs should be highlighted for their contributions to each of the trend areas for new black migration.
HBCUs in all of these cities can likely claim some of the highest-paid employees in sectors like education, athletics and philanthropy. Presidents, vice-presidents, deans, and head coaches likely all help to move the average median income in their respective towns and cities.
These campuses create hundreds of jobs which lead employees to buy homes, claim income and pay state and municipal taxes. Colleges and universities naturally attract the businesses which make a community more livable and attractive (restaurants, gyms, bars and lounges, churches, and shopping retailers) and offer cultural infusion tailored to the identity of residents.
For black folks, events like homecoming, museum exhibits, plays and concerts which speak to the black experience are far more available on HBCU campuses than at predominantly white institutions or other types of schools. And the minority-owned companies earning contracts to support these events and others throughout the year gain a lion’s share of their earnings from black college campuses.
Central State University was last month named as our 2017 HBCU of the Year, and to steady observers of HBCU culture, there was no great surprise in how the institution earned such an honor.
The numbers are proof of how and why HBCUs matter today; and are exactly why every HBCU should annually complete economic impact studies to show just how much they matter to these cities and to the region. The United Negro College Fund tried and fell short, but analyses of African-American economic power should convince HBCU leaders and advocates of how to construct our case for years to come.