Baton Rouge received low grades on a set of benchmarks looking at the city’s racial and economic disparities released today by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
For the study, completed by Ernst & Young, the Baton Rouge area was compared to 39 other Southern metropolitan areas of comparable population size, including Fayetteville, Arkansas; Mobile, Alabama; Beaumont, Texas; and Jacksonville, Florida.
For most of the benchmarks, Baton Rouge either scored in the bottom 25% or the bottom 50% of the class, putting the region in a tough position to attract and drive growth in the community, according to John Rees, director of Research Economic Development Advisory Service with Ernst & Young, who presented the data this morning during a BRAC webinar.
“The regions that provide a broad base platform for opportunities where anyone can see themselves succeeding in that region are going to be best positioned to attract talent and drive employment growth and economic growth within their communities,” Rees says.
Approximately 37% of renters and homeowners with a mortgage spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, which is a high percentage, Rees says. He also says it’s high when compared to people’s income levels.
While white households in Baton Rouge accounted for some of the highest income figures across the cities in the study, Baton Rouge’s non-white and Hispanic households earn the second-lowest amount of money in the Southern cities compared for the study. As of 2018, it’s estimated that white households in Baton Rouge brought in 2.4 times more money than the region’s non-white and Hispanic households.
The study breaks down the disparity further. In 2018, the median household income for white households topped $75,000; Hispanic households brought less than $58,000 and black households earned $38,000.
With median household levels correlating with educational attainment levels, the study says the area’s racial and ethnic disparities in income may also reflect significant disparities in educational attainment. Among local residents older than 25, more than 34% of white and non-Hispanic people possess a bachelor’s degree, compared to 20% of non-white and Hispianic residents.
Another portion of the study looked at the percentage of non-white workers in management positions relative to the non-white population. While approximately 40% of the region’s workforce is non-white, only 20% of workers in management positions are also non-white.
“The minority population of Baton Rouge is relatively large,” Rees says. “If you’re not helping that population to achieve high levels of educational attainment, you’re not able to deliver the human capital potential that other communities are delivering.” Read the full report.