More Black women live in poverty in Pittsburgh than comparable cities—New equity report shows noticeable disparities



by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer

Typically, analyses of racial and gender disparities in Pittsburgh’s crime rate, unemployment, economic activity, education levels, poverty, etc. compare it with 13 cities of similar size and racial makeup.

But Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race report compares the city to 89 others—including those 13. The result, as one of the report’s researchers said at the Sept. 17 release of the report, confirms what many people already knew instinctively:

“If Black residents got up today and moved to most any other city in the U.S., automatically by just moving, their life expectancy would go up, their income would go up, their educational opportunities for their children would go up,” said University of Pittsburgh sociologist Junia Howell.

The report looks at multiple health variables: infant mortality; causes/ages of death; heart disease; poverty rates; income levels; educational attainment; and job sector inclusion. In many of these areas, the disparity between Blacks and Whites in Pittsburgh is worse than almost anywhere else.

One such indicator is fetal death: For Pittsburgh’s Black women, 18 out of every 1,000 pregnancies end in a fetal death. This is compared to only 9 out of every 1,000 White pregnancies and 2 out of every AMLON (Asian, Multiracial, Latinx, other racial groups or Native American) pregnancies. That rate for Black women is higher than 94 percent of other cities.

Urban League President and CEO Esther Bush, who submits a monthly health column to the New Pittsburgh Courier, said she found the report’s findings sobering.

“It’s like, I knew we were bad, but I didn’t know we were the worst,” she said. “We need to come to a place of necessity, where we ask each (person) what ‘we’ are doing, personally, to make things better—because whatever we’ve been doing is inadequate.”

While the poverty rates for all races in Pittsburgh are higher than the other cities surveyed, Blacks, again, have higher rates. However, more Black women live in poverty in Pittsburgh than in 85 percent of other cities. And 85 percent of other cities have higher rates of Black employment than Pittsburgh.

Also, as the chart from the report indicates, while Whites tend to find employment across high-to-low income employment sectors, Blacks are more segregated, with fewer in the high-income positions such as attorney, engineer, mathematicians, etc.

While the report’s authors note that some national factors affect outcomes—in primary education, for example—others seem to be localized and therefore could be remedied by studying what has been done in the comparison cities.

This is the first of four reports the Pitt team of researchers will produce in the coming months. Mayor Bill Peduto said he plans to develop policy based on the findings but told the Sept. 17 press conference audience that the city can’t do it alone. He said the city’s largest institutions and corporations should use the same data to help.

Echoing Bush, he said, “Start by asking, ‘What are you doing to make their lives better?’”


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