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New report shows dramatic differences in lives of Minneapolis residents of color, whites

American Indian students of all groups are least likely to graduate from high school, compared with other racial and ethnic groups.
Courtesy of The Minneapolis Foundation
American Indian students of all groups are least likely to graduate from high school, compared with other racial and ethnic groups.

A new report demonstrates dramatic differences in the lives of Minneapolis residents of color, compared with their white counterparts, as well as to one another, even as the city is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.

“Across most indicators a wide gap in opportunity or outcomes exists by race and income,” according to the report “One Minneapolis: A vision for our city’s success” commissioned by The Minneapolis Foundation and released today.

The report shows “pervasive” racial disparities in education, housing, jobs and other measures in the community, according to Minneapolis Foundation President Sandra Vargas, who called it “shocking.”

“We have known about this but not the degree to which disparities exist. There’s no running from it,” Vargas said.

The disparities have “been hidden in plain sight,” according to researcher Andi Egbert, who says the report — a compilation of data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the 2009 American Community Survey as well as from state, county, city and school sources — puts Minneapolis “under a microscope.” Egbert, from Wilder Research, helped prepare the report with colleague Laura Martell Kelly.  

“There should be a call of outrage and, more importantly, a call to action,” says Vargas, whose nonprofit agency will be doing just that in coming days, alerting those she describes as the “generous, good people” of a “progressive” Minneapolis to the findings.

The foundation, which, in full disclosure, is a financial sponsor of Community Sketchbook, plans now and in the years ahead to lead community conversations to work toward equitable solutions to the inequities as well as to highlight on its website programs that are successfully working to close racial and ethnic gaps.   

More than half of the city's American Indian, Asian and black children live in poverty.
Courtesy of The Minneapolis Foundation
More than half of the city’s American Indian, Asian and black children live in poverty.

The report stresses the importance of “everyone fully participating in our workforce and benefiting from our shared quality of life” in order for Minneapolis to continue as “an economic engine for the state.”

The 59-page “Community Indicators” report opens with Minneapolis-at-a-glance graphics displaying these stats:

  • About 60 percent of Minneapolis residents are white and non-Hispanic while the remaining 40 percent are persons of color.
  • Further, 15 percent of the city’s 382,578 residents are foreign-born.
  • Though median household income is $45,538 and the median home value is $220,900, almost one-quarter of the city’s residents live in poverty.
  • Though 40 percent of the city population is persons of color, only 17 percent of jobs in Minneapolis are filled by people of color.
  • Whites of working age are most likely to be working (78 percent) followed by Hispanics (75 percent). (A bit of good news is that more jobs pay “family-supporting” wages, though these often benefit workers coming into the city rather than residents.)
  • Children from Somali homes are significantly more prepared to start kindergarten than those from homes where Spanish is spoken, although Hispanic children are less likely to live in poverty than Asian, American Indian, and Black children.
  • More than half of the city’s American Indian, Asian and black children live in poverty.
  • Though the supply of affordable housing is increasing, it does not meet the need.
  • Black children living in poverty “vastly” outnumber children of other races in the same economic situation.
Whites of working age are most likely to be working (78 percent) followed by Latinos (75 percent).
Courtesy of The Minneapolis Foundation
Whites of working age are most likely to be working (78 percent) followed by Latinos (75 percent).
  • American Indian students of all groups are least likely to graduate from high school after four years, to go directly to post-secondary education or be employed, compared with other racial and ethnic groups.
  • African-American students test only slightly more proficient in reading in third grade than black pupils who are English Language Learners.
  • The employment gap between whites and American Indians is 27 percentage points, and the gap between whites and U.S.-born blacks is 25 percentage points.
  • Only 52 percent of school-age white children residing in the city in 2009 were enrolled in Minneapolis Public Schools, compared with three-fourths of children of color. One-third of the school-age group attends alternative schools or has dropped out.

There are some bright points: The percentage of residents who feel “unaccepted because of their race, ethnicity or culture” has declined from 19 percent in 2002 to 9 percent in 2010, though at 20 percent, blacks and African-Americans make up the largest group of those feeling unaccepted.

Comments (22)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/05/2011 - 08:18 am.

    What kind of hypocrite is Sandy Vargas? These numbers prove the real cause of racial disparities in education, yet she created, championed and funds the attacks on teachers as the cause of these problems. Look back at the events she sponsored creating MinnCan, where the head of ConnCan said that schools cause these disparities. Will she now repudiate her unethical and shameful attacks on schools and teachers?

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/05/2011 - 08:28 am.

    The solution is school vouchers that enable parents to send their kids to any school in the city, public or private. The fact that this idea is vigorously opposed tells you where the problem lies.

  3. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/05/2011 - 09:44 am.

    All of it is unacceptable, by race, by income, or by nothing at all. Only 44% of ALL students are even graduating high school, let alone getting further training for jobs/careers. Truly pathetic is the fact that blacks that were born here, and should be thoroughly familiar with the English language, do barely better than those learning English as a second language in reading. And, in some groups, the graduation rate doesn’t even surpass 35%.

    Mr. Tester is wrong. This is not about simply putting them in the right school (a ridiculous idea actually calculated to bring further poverty to poverty-stricken groups). This is a cultural attitude that has been carefully cultivated by the tight-fisted right. After all, if our population aspires to stupidity, we can spend less of our “hard earned” money on educating them. And if they drop out before they finish, well all the greater savings since we don’t have to pay for those last couple years.

    There is no excuse for the overall lack of achievement, let alone the great disparity in achievement. More community involvement is necessary. Programs that provide mentors to students at the greatest risk of dropping out lead to an increase in the graduation rate. This, in turn, leads to greater self-esteem (which is probably very highly linked to the underachievement), and a greater employability. We need to fund our schools, as well as put our own time on the line. For some programs, the time cost to those volunteering is less than an hour a week, but it does a world of good.

    Most importantly, we need to dispell the myth that ignorance is a good thing. Stop electing leaders who would make great drinking buddies and start celebrating the intelligence and creativity of the American people. We have come a long way in 50 years…from idolizing astronauts and marvelling at engineering and scientific feats to jeering at intellectuals and making the word “elitist” a slur.

  4. Submitted by craig furguson on 10/05/2011 - 09:51 am.

    “”There should be a call of outrage and, more importantly, a call to action,” says Vargas.” It’s difficult to imagine that this would be shocking to Sandra Vargas, who is the former Hennepin County Administrator. All the statistics are interesting, but what I don’t see is an identification of a root cause. If I was going to take a shot in the dark at action, I’d one pregnancy prevention for teens, then young family supports such as ECFE, NAZ and early childhood education to keep young people, children and families on a good path. That would be much easier than turning the Titanic after hitting an iceberg.

  5. Submitted by Victoria Wilson on 10/05/2011 - 10:16 am.

    Since there is a consensus that mixed-income schools place a lighter burden on the public school system with more favorable results for the least advantaged, I would be interested to see the graduation rates for affluent kids in mixed-income schools versus affluent schools. If affluent families could see that their children are likely to perform as well in a mixed-income school, perhaps Minneapolis schools could retain a larger number of this demographic.

  6. Submitted by Lynn Nelson on 10/05/2011 - 11:13 am.

    We can’t waste our precious young resources as we Boomers age. Despite our political affiliation, we must invest our time, talent and treasure in our youth.

  7. Submitted by craig furguson on 10/05/2011 - 11:17 am.

    “Victoria Wilson says: Since there is a consensus that mixed-income schools place a lighter burden on the public school system with more favorable results for the least advantaged, I would be interested to see the graduation rates for affluent kids in mixed-income schools versus affluent schools.” I agree, that would be interesting.

  8. Submitted by craig furguson on 10/05/2011 - 11:22 am.

    Wait a minute… White students have a higher graduation rate than higher-income students. Does that mean it’s not all about money?

  9. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/05/2011 - 12:27 pm.

    “Mr. Tester is wrong. This is not about simply putting them in the right school (a ridiculous idea actually calculated to bring further poverty to poverty-stricken groups).”

    Good grief. I rest my case.

  10. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/05/2011 - 01:03 pm.

    “Wait a minute… White students have a higher graduation rate than higher-income students. Does that mean it’s not all about money? ”

    Yes – it could be about racism as well.

  11. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/05/2011 - 01:16 pm.

    A couple facts for Mr. Tester:

    Per-student spending in Minneapolis is about $8K. How many private schools charge less than $8K a year? Are you saying that a Breck-style education is the right of every student and that you are willing to pay for it? Breck is about $24K a year. Try to balance a budget with that!!

    Second, open enrollment exists between districts and within districts. About 10,000 students in Minneapolis go to schools outside of the Minneapolis school district. Some of the adjacent districts have moved to limit open enrollment. Are you saying that the individual districts have no right to limit open-enrollment? How does that fit with your ideas of local control?

  12. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/05/2011 - 01:28 pm.

    And if Mr. Tester wants to trumpet the tuition of Catholic schools (which is, on first look, comparable to the public school per-pupil costs), he should also realize that Catholic schools are operated with a subsidy from the church and parish that disguise the true cost-per-pupil.

    If he thinks the Catholic church will undertake to subsidize the education of a significant portion of the the non-Catholic population, I have a bridge for sale at a very economical price.

  13. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/05/2011 - 02:24 pm.

    “I would be interested to see the graduation rates for affluent kids in mixed-income schools versus affluent schools.”

    Watch the rates in Eden Prairie over the next 5 years….oh, wait….never mind.

  14. Submitted by craig furguson on 10/05/2011 - 02:39 pm.

    “Wait a minute… White students have a higher graduation rate than higher-income students. Does that mean it’s not all about money? ”

    Yes – it could be about racism as well.”

    Or something else. Not all minority kids have the same outcome. In the burbs the Asian kids joke about being held to “Asian Standards”

  15. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/05/2011 - 02:55 pm.

    The report is about quite a bit more than “which school to go to,” though the consequences often show up in the first bar graph. The other charts are equally depressing, as are some of the bullet points in the article itself. Somehow, I don’t think this is the “Minnesota Miracle” that long-time residents have been talking about. To a newbie like me, this report looks a lot like a farther-north version of Chicago and St. Louis, but with some Minneapolis-specific implications that are potentially explosive.

    As has been said before, and by people smarter and more articulate, culture matters.

    As for schools themselves, I don’t think I can improve on Neal Rovick’s comments in #11 and #12.

  16. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/05/2011 - 09:21 pm.

    A couple facts for Mr. Rovick:

    According to their website, there are 38,725 kids enrolled in the Saint Paul Public School system.

    Their annual budget is $623.8 million. That comes out to $16,108 per child. That’s almost a half million dollars per classroom of 30 kids.

    If parents were offered the choice of sending their children to their current government school, or provided vouchers in the amount of $16,108 per child, redeemable at any school willing to accept it as full tuition, several things would happen:

    1. At essentially a half-million dollars per classroom, private schools would open up all over town that offered innovative educational opportunities, providing parents with a variety of choices.

    2. Schools would continuously improve to compete for those $16,000 vouchers.

    3. Forced to compete, the existing public schools would collapse due to a lack of customers.

    But of course, this will never happen as long as the unionists and their democrat politicians are more concerned with their salaries and retirement benefits than they are with educating other people’s kids.

  17. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/06/2011 - 08:21 am.

    What’s Ms Vargas gonna say “I knew it all along”. That would be admitting what is evident.

    We lived in St. Louis Park. That is a district with at least 30-40 percent of the kids that were poor and/or minority. Yet when u play kids soccer or any other sport, you would think you were in Norway.

    My wife and I tried to do something about it. That’s when you run into the “machine”. The city was the least responsive (to say the least) to any of our concerns (until they realized that we would not go away). Then the school board one realizes is even worse. Some of the parents on the school board were only interested in maintaining the status quo of the mostly white “private school” call Spanish Immersion.

    People like Neal and Rachel, all they want to do is keep pouring money and pretend it is everybody else s fault. All that has been tried. It does not work. We moved away after our three year fight. Has anything changed. No. Its still the same. It will never change.

  18. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/06/2011 - 10:20 am.

    @#12
    Huh? You’re complaining that only white kids played soccer and that “Spanish Immersion” exists? I’m trying to understand the link here. I suspect that at least some of the reasons that the city was unresponsive is because 1) School boards, not cities control schools; and 2) Maybe they didn’t understand your complaints, either. It is very possible that other parents resisted change, I truly don’t doubt that. But I don’t understand how my views relate to your perceived problems. If you wanted to change schools, you certainly could have done so. Move. Can’t afford to move? That, there, is the rub.

    @#16
    You are correct, the average spending per student in SPPS is about $16k. That’s the entire spending per student. If you want a voucher and you live in St. Paul, you won’t be getting $16k, though. It would make absolutely no sense to send the money that is inherent to the structure with you. That is, you should not get a portion of the money that is allotted to busing, buildings, or meals (25%). Plus, you should get only the national average allocation for student spending over that portion of the budget covered by federal dollars, only the state average allocation for student spending over that portion of the budget covered by state dollars, and maybe we would consider the SPPS average only for that portion provided by local taxes (12%). And if you live outside the area serviced by SPPS, you’ll probably get a different number. For example, Minneapolis Public Schools expends slightly more per student, total. Of that, you shouldn’t get the portion allocated to buildings and busing (11% of the general fund), nor should you get the portions allocated to debt services (the money spent because the state no longer funds schools fully–12%), capital improvements (5%), or community services (4%). And the amount further should be adjusted by how much of the fund is provided by the various sources, with 35% being local. And that would be generous. If the voucher program was implemented by the state, I would imagine that you would only be allocated the state average (about $8k). You would probably have to come up with the rest of the tuition if you wanted to have your kids attend those schools convenient to where you live. Or move somewhere cheaper.

  19. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/06/2011 - 10:58 am.

    @18

    Let me connect the dots for you. Spanish Immersion —-> 90+% white in a district that is 30+ % minority. That is the same with soccer.

    The city was unresponsive not because the schools ran the soccer programs for kids. Rather they did not want to look there, because it would mean asking questions we asked. Once we started asking question people started coming out of the woodwork. That should probably tell u something as to how these programs are run.

    FYI, I got the President of the SLP Soccer club to step down. That shows we found something. Something the city and the schools (they share a lot of resources) were/are unwilling to look at. If my wife and I were so obtuse and ignorant how come we found all this ?

    If you have kids in these schools you will realize, there are no “other parents” that run these organization. The soccer board was run as a private entity that refused to show its books. Till the point we asked questions no other member had ever seen the books. A stand completely contradictory to state/school and city policy. Yet they all wanted to look the other way

    For the vested interests and the ultra left, it is always convenient to posit that it is all too complex for average person to understand. I have run one business in the past and will probably start another software company in the near future. I do know what to look for or what questions to ask.

    People with the motivation always find the way to move. There are plenty of motivated low income families we see in our school district.

    My point is that we saw how the schools/cities are run. Money will not solve the problem. Persons like Neal and you seem to believe its all about the money.

  20. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/06/2011 - 03:05 pm.

    @#19
    It’s NOT all about the money, and I have my doubts as to whether it seems that way (at least for me). See my earlier post regarding involvement.

    I still don’t understand your problem with the soccer and Spanish immersion. Is this a matter of your children and other non-white children being prohibited from joining these groups? If so, that is a major problem. One that should be brought to the media’s attention.

    That being said, is the soccer team run by a private group or by the schools? You have indicated both. While racism is an issue in both cases, it is more difficult to address the issue in a private group, which is entitled to their eligibility requirements. I agree that schools should endorse no group that allows membership based on a protected status (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender). But, if the schools do not endorse them, that’s a separate issue. The city, I’m sure, was probably puzzled as to why they should care because they have no authority over any part of the situation.

    Now, it’s my understanding that most, if not all, of the extracurricular activities available for kids these days requires additional fees. While this is a form of institutionalized racism (because of the inherent wealth disparities between whites and non-whites), it is, unfortunately, a pay to play situation. If non-white kids’ parents can’t afford or justify the cost of having their kids play soccer, while white kids’ parents have no such qualms, then the kids that make up the group are going to be mostly white. As long as the schools are funded such that they cannot afford to allow open participation without additional fees, it is too stinking bad.

    Now, knowing, Mr. Maddali, that you are a well-paid software engineer from previous “conversations” on here with you, and understanding that you are at a large informational services company from my own research, I have my doubts that you are unable to pay for the “extras” for your kids. If you can afford it, I am wondering, again, what the issue is? Are you suggesting that extracurriculars be freely accessible to all students, regardless of their financial ability to support such a thing? You do know that will cost YOU and ME extra money, right? You do know that it will increase the MONEY that school districts need per child, right?

    I am most certainly willing to put my money and time on the line to help a child reach their full potential (at least, I’d be open to helping a financially needy child join a Spanish Immersion program; probably not a soccer team, though). You, on the other hand, seem concerned about only your own kids, expecting a handout but not wanting to pay for it. If my view of your stance is incorrect, you will need to be more clear on what you perceive to be the problem. I am most certainly not so dense that anyone needs to connect dots if there is a clear message in them.

  21. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 10/06/2011 - 04:36 pm.

    Firstly before i respond to you in detail. Could u point out where I stated that my stated concern was about “my kids”. Do you really believe i would battle the city and its collusion with the soccer club for my one kid ?

    I actually volunteered to pay for the entire program that i was proposing for minority kids. Yet i was rebuffed because that was stepping into city politics. All in St. Louis Park, the home of DFL “children first”. In DFL towns like St. Louis Park, even the city dog catcher is a political process.

    You may be hypothetical that you would be willing to put your money …. We actually did it. We reverse engineered the soccer clubs books and proved that they were not spending the money they were collecting as fees. What did the city do ? Nothing.

    Not for my kid but for ALL the kids who were being left out in that town.

    You still don’t understand the problems I point out in Spanish Immersion and soccer (which is basically the most popular minority sport) ? Let me try yet again in a more simple fashion. Its called exclusion.

    In a town that has 30+% minority and there is no significant participation of such people in those activities, I see a problem. I still wonder how a person as educationally qualified as you don’t. I guess that’s the difference between u and I. I can spot a problem and devise a solution. That’s what I do for a living.

    Exclusion not by happenstance but rather by deliberate design.

    In case of the Spanish immersion, they (the elites of the town) gamed the rules. For example, you have to be enrolled in Grade 1 and your sibling gets a preference.

    In case of the soccer they (city and the club) told us they gave scholarships. When we asked for proof (as those would be public documents), they could not prove a single one !!!

    Want another example. I applied for a spot on the Parks and Rec commission thru the school.
    The school board waited for one year (that correct 1 full year), before they called me for an interview. You know who got the spot ? A person who never even applied for the job.

    These examples prove my point, that pouring money into the existing systems of educations is just wishful thinking.

    Finally as I stated earlier, when I spotted a problem I dug into it. Then I dug further and found out why and forced at least some action. While digging into the problem we discovered the “rot” in the system.

    We moved away. Due to my wife’s hard work and to maybe a small extent my hard work we live pretty decent lives. However we always remember our experience and the rot and hypocrisy that we saw.

  22. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/06/2011 - 06:49 pm.

    Mr. Maddali,
    That makes it slightly more clear. You observed that the soccer team was less diverse than the student population. I am still not clear as to the actual reason… But I do understand that you tried to make your own soccer team for minorities. I do not understand why/how you were rebuffed. You keep making comments suggesting that I am too stupid to get your point, but you fail to provide details. I do not doubt that there is racism. But without having details, it is not clear the source of the racism. That is not my fault.

    That being said, I don’t know how building a whole new team for minorities fixes the issue…it’s just reinforcing that the only solution is separation. We know that doesn’t work.

    Also, you relate your problem to “DFL towns,” but I highly suspect that you will find the same issue everywhere.

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