African Americans were more likely to be unemployed than Americans overall in 2018 than they were in 2013, according to a new study that details the economic and financial progress African Americans have made over five years.

Researchers at Lending Tree, a website that connects borrowers with lenders, found that while unemployment decreased for African Americans by 36 percent – from 16.6% in 2013 to 10.6% in 2018 — it was still five percentage points higher than the unemployment rate for Americans as a whole.

The unemployment rate for Americans overall in 2013 was 9.7%, which fell to 5.9% in 2018.

“I don’t want to get political here, but I would hope that this report would color how people view the approaches that the parties and candidates take toward legislative and social issues, and how those things are framed,” lead researcher Kali McFadden told NNPA Newswire.

“It certainly demonstrates that, even though people talk about how much better economically things are, African Americans are more in the hole than they were five years ago.”

Study authors concluded that there are four metro areas in which Black homeowners have closed the gap within 20% – all of them are in the South, specifically in the Carolinas.

What McFadden said she found most striking is the advances made in education by African Americans, which didn’t translate into more economic prosperity in the Black community.

“In almost every metric we examined, African Americans realized slower growth than the country as a whole, but they did outpace their peers when it comes to higher education,” McFadden noted.

Black residents of Riverside, Calif., Pine Bluff, Ark. and San Antonio have closed the gap with the whole of their communities when it comes to earning higher education degrees.

Residents of Charlottesville, Va. have seen that gap widen the most: 66%.

“The education findings to me really were the most striking, the most disheartening and frightening,” McFadden said.

“You know, we’d really hope that education would create a more even playing field and the fact that African Americans are exceeding the growth rate in higher education degrees shows a lot of things. It shows achievement, and it shows that families are directing their children, and it shows a lot of groundswell for entering the professional working world.

“The fact that other economic indicators aren’t keeping pace with that is really startling. And, I don’t have a good reason for why that is. We know about workplace bias, and we know about resume bias.”

For those attending historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), McFadden believes the lack of funding at those schools contributes to high student debt.

“HBCUs just don’t have the endowments that the most prestigious schools have. We have reports that show where parents are borrowing to send their kids to school, and those debts are harder to pay,” McFadden added.

The comprehensive study did reveal places where African Americans are faring well.

Researchers found that the Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla., metro area is leading the country in economic advancement for African Americans. The population has grown by 17%, homeownership is up by 50% in Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, and unemployment is down by 66%. Grand Rapids, Mich., and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., came in second and third place, respectively.

Concerning the biggest takeaway from the study, McFadden called most of the details “depressing for African Americans.”

Key findings

Black income

33% below national average.

2018 median household income

Blacks – $40,155

All others – $60,293

Homeownership, 2013 to 2018

4.7% drop for Blacks

1.7% for all others

5 locations with least overall gains for Blacks

Houma-Thibodaux, La.

Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

Hammond, La.

Goldsboro, N.C.

Hilton Head Island-Beaufort, S.C.