Lending Tree Study Ranked Syracuse Second in Economic Disparity

In the fall of 2023, a study from LendingTree ranked Syracuse second in economic disparity for Black residents. LendingTree analyzed five years of data from the U.S. Census, which focused on five metrics: education, home ownership, household income, the percentage of Black households making six figures, and the unemployment rate.

Community health, like personal health, requires a holistic approach. To thrive as a community, we need strong employment opportunities, access to good homes, and schools that prepare our young people for the future to name a few.

In order to determine the economic health of an area, experts look at metrics like education, home ownership, household income, and the unemployment rate. Without this data, it’s hard to understand where we are as a community and what stories that data tells about it.

In the fall of 2023, a study from LendingTree ranked Syracuse 2nd in economic disparity for Black residents. LendingTree analyzed five years of data from the U.S. Census, which focused on five metrics: education, home ownership, household income, the percentage of Black households making six figures, and the unemployment rate. Syracuse ranked 93rd or below in all five categories. So, how did we get to this point and what are we doing as a community to help address this inequity?

History of Redlining and its Effects on Current Housing 

One indicator of a strong and thriving local economy is the rate of home ownership. There’s a long list of both personal and communal benefits of owning a home. It allows individuals to build wealth, access tax credits, and generate a sense of community. While neighborhoods with higher rates of homeownership tend to have higher property values, which means there’s additional funding for public services like schools and infrastructure. A home provides stability and can be passed down from one generation to the next.

Unfortunately, not everyone in our community has had equal access to purchasing a home. For Black residents, a history of racist housing policies and community disinvestment has led to inequality in homeownership. Some of the most impoverished areas of Syracuse today reflect redlined districts resulting from the National Housing Act of 1934, which led to a large increase in residential racial segregation and urban decay in US cities. While redlining is no longer considered a lawful practice under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the effects of these deeply rooted inequalities continue to live on.

Right now, only 28.6% of Onondaga County’s Black residents own their homes compared to 72% of White residents, according to the Lending Tree Study . Black homeowners also pay more for mortgage loans, which only works to set families back from achieving financial freedom.

Local nonprofits such as Home HeadQuarters and the Greater Syracuse Land Bank have worked for decades to address the multifaceted housing issue. This includes increasing the local housing stock, remediating lead in homes, and providing accessible loans for Black citizens. For example, Home HeadQuarters (HHQ) has spearheaded efforts to cut racial gaps in mortgage lending during the last three years. HHQ has made more than 200 home-purchase loans, which totaled $22.4 million with more than half of that lending going to Black or mixed-race borrowers.

Combined with the recent announcement of the Syracuse Housing Strategy and its investment in the local housing stock, there’s hope for a stronger housing future in Central New York.

Education: Where We Are, Where We Can Grow 

When looking at the metrics for economic disparity, you can see how interconnected the metrics are. Strong educational systems create pathways to good paying jobs, which creates enough wealth for homeownership, which in turn feeds the public schools system. These metrics are interconnected and need multi-pronged solutions in order to address economic disparities.

Education opens doors to economic opportunity. Census tracts throughout Central New York with lower median incomes had more people in the workforce without a high school diploma compared to tracts with higher median incomes. Historically, there have been significant economic and racial disparities in public school completion rates. In New York State, the graduation rate in 2021 for Black and Hispanic students was 80 percent, compared to 90 percent for White students.

Education has always been deeply connected to the wealth of a region.  Incomes are tied to public school completion and level of income. One positive sign is that, in Syracuse, disparities in graduation rates between some racial groups have decreased in recent years. In 2021, Black students in the Syracuse City School District had a higher graduation rate than white students (80% compared to 76%).

Due to the efforts of Central New Yorkers over the last two decades, the region is poised for rapid economic growth in the next ten years. One way to ensure equity in opportunities is through an investment in education and in workforce development which ensures that Central New Yorkers can fill in-demand and good-paying jobs in the tech and manufacturing sector. Community advocates are working to ensure that the most vulnerable communities benefit from this historic investment.

Workforce Development

Providing job opportunities with livable wages is critical for community and personal well-being. Lack of opportunity and underemployment creates hard decisions for families on where to spend finite resources.  Unemployment rates across the country skyrocketed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cities across the US are still recovering.

In 2021, Syracuse had almost 90,000 unemployment beneficiaries, which was over seven times as many as the city saw before the pandemic. Historically these dips affect marginalized communities at a higher rate. For Black Americans, the unemployment rate is often 2-3 percent higher than their White counterparts.

Through initiatives like Syracuse Surge, the region is investing in new employment opportunities for its residents.  Through partnerships, Syracuse Surge invests in reskilling and upskilling Central New York residents for careers in coding, cybersecurity, and high-tech manufacturing. Since the program launched in 2019, it has reskilled and upskilled more than 1,000 city residents for careers in tech. This workforce development is crucial as Micron’s historic $100 billion investment promises to create up to 90,000 jobs in the next 20 years.

As the region attracts historic investment, it’s vital that these opportunities reach Central New Yorkers who currently live here.  In order to improve our community’s economic health and address critical disparities, we have to continue to invest in holistic changes for a better tomorrow.

CNY Vitals is an initiative of the Central New York Community Foundation. The Central New York Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity. Its mission is to foster a thriving Central New York community, inspire greater giving, celebrate legacy and steward charitable resources for today and tomorrow.