Minnesota’s Black or African American population has grown steadily throughout the decades, but it still accounts for a small percentage of the population of the state, which is nearly 90 percent white.
Information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) shows a young, urban population that lags behind the state’s total population in terms of income, unemployment, poverty and home-ownership. In education, however, African Americans are on par or higher with the state’s rates of high school/early college graduation and college enrollment.
In the 2006-2008 ACS for Minnesota, 225,648 Minnesotans were identified as “Black or African American.” More than 90 percent lived in the metro area (Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area). The Census Bureau’s Annual Population Estimate (APE) for 2008, considered a more official count, put the number at 238,531, and another 38,926 described themselves as “Black or African American in combination with one or more other races.”
The ACS surveys a sample of the population each year about a long list of individual, household and family characteristics. The three-year compilation (2006-2008 being the most recent) provides a broader sample and smaller margin of error than single-year surveys.
Finding the Numbers
To find figures for African American Minnesotans in the 2006-2008 ACS survey, go to the 2008 gray box in the center column of the page. Click on “selected population profiles,” which will take you to another page.
On this page select geographic type – state – and Minnesota. Click on “Add” and then on “Next.”Now you are on the page where you can choose to get a report for any group. Scroll down and click on “Black alone or in combination with other races.”
African American population historically
The state’s black population measured in the thousands from the 19th century until the 1960 census, when 22,263 African Americans were counted – still just .6 percent of the state’s then 3.4 million people. The population has grown each decade, representing a larger and larger (though still small) percentage of the state’s population – 4.5 percent in 2008 (see sidebar.)
Minnesota’s percentage of African Americans is roughly one-third the national percentage, which was 12.3 percent in 2008 (ACS numbers). Statistically, Minnesotan African Americans fared slightly better than the national averages for educational attainment and enrollment, but worse in unemployment (11 percent to the 7.6 national percentage). For African Americans in Minnesota, median household income was $5,000 lower than the national median, and the poverty rate for families was higher – 29.5 percent, compared to the 21.2 percent national rate.
The percentage of African Americans under 44 years old is consistently higher than state totals for those age groups. The largest group for African Americans was 5-17 years old (23.6 percent of the population). That’s 6.1 percent higher than the state’s total school-age minors.
By contrast, the percentage of African Americans over the age of 45 dropped steadily for each ten-year age group, compared to state totals. Only 3.5 percent of African Americans were 65 or over, compared to 12.3 percent of all Minnesota seniors.
African Americans 25 years and older are on par with, or slightly higher than, the state in holding a high school diploma or equivalency (29.1 percent) and “some college or associate’s degree” (32.4 percent).
While that same group had a lower rate of bachelor’s and graduate degrees (13.6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively), the trend may be changing: 26.4 percent of African Americans were enrolled in college or graduate school in 2006-2008 – slightly higher than the state average for all Minnesotans, thanks to an enrollment rate 3.5 percent higher for African American males than the state total.
While 69.7 percent of African Americans were in the labor force, 11 percent were unemployed on average over 2006-2008, more than twice the state average of 3.7 percent. (That gap remains in the worsened economy, at least nationwide, for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 9 percent unemployment for whites in April 2010, compared to 16.5 percent for blacks.)
Of employed blacks, 30.6 percent worked in educational services, and health care and social assistance, higher than the 22.6 percent state level. African Americans, especially females, lagged behind the state averages in management and professional occupations (27.1 percent to 37.2 percent for both sexes), instead holding a higher percentage of service positions (25.9 percent to 15.4 percent).
African American income by household was far lower than state median household income – $30,302 to $57,795. (The median means that half of the households made more, and half made less, than the number.)
The median income for African American families was $34,146.
Mean (average) household income statistics reveal more about African American income: 84.2 percent of the 77,503 African American households had income through “earnings.” The mean income by earnings was $48,203 – $26,760 lower than the state average for earnings.
In non-earnings categories, African American households ranked higher in percentage of income from cash public assistance (15.2 percent versus 3.1 percent statewide) as well as food stamp benefits (26.6 percent versus 5.2 percent statewide). Rates of Social Security and retirement incomes were lower, likely due to the lower percentage of retirement-age African Americans.
The bottom line of many of these statistics is reflected in the poverty rate: 29.5 percent of African American families were considered to be in poverty, compared to 6.4 percent of all families statewide. That number jumped to 35 percent for families with children. Half of female householders with children and no husband present were poor – and 54.3 percent whose children were under five years old.
Individually, 32.7 percent of Minnesota’s African Americans were considered to be in poverty, including 40 percent of African Americans under 18.
Only 29.4 percent owned the home they lived in, while the rest rented. This is almost exactly opposite the state totals, 75.3 percent owner-occupied, versus 24.7 percent rented. This fact is reflected in the type of housing – 47.3 percent of African Americans lived in structures with five or more units (compared to 16.6 percent for the state), while 42 percent lived in one-unit structures.
For African Americans that did own their houses, the median value was $222,500 – $10,000 higher than the state median value but $20,000 lower than in the metro area, in which the vast majority live. Renters paid a higher percentage of their income for housing – 61.3 percent had paid more than 30 percent of their household income per the previous 12 months.
African or African American?
The census category belies a more complex population that includes the state’s large number of ethnic Africans. Of those considered “Black or African American,” 61,355 were foreign-born (37 percent). The vast majority came to the U.S. in the past 20 years – 55.7 percent since 2000, and another 36.3 percent between 1990 and 1999.
In the same surveys, 83,288 people identified themselves as having “Subsarahan African” ancestry, 53,426 of whom had been born outside the U.S. Nearly 70 percent of those five years of age or older spoke a language other than English in their home.
Some 62,638 reported their country of birth as being in “Africa.” Of these, 37,695 reported their country of birth as the subcategory “Eastern Africa.” Only two countries were specified: Ethiopia (11,510) and Kenya (5,704), with more than half (20,481) under the category “other Eastern Africa,” presumably including the state’s large Somali-born population.