Data show Arizona’s racial inequities in education, poverty, prisons




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In the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Dion Johnson, the nation has re-ignited discussions of racial inequities and disparities in policing. But data suggests those inequities between whites and people of color in Arizona stretch far beyond interactions with police. 

Arizona protests have focused mainly on the killings of Floyd and Johnson, but are driven in large part by frustrations that the quality of life for communities of color remains less than for white Arizonans.

Education

Arizona’s education system has long been a point of contention, and the state often gets ranked close to the bottom on national surveys for its K-12 system for both funding and performance. 

The state’s overcrowded classrooms, lack of access to equipment in rural areas, teacher shortages and low teacher pay have consistently been focal points of discussion. 

Data on test scores from the Arizona Department of Education shows that black students are passing the state’s standardized English and math tests less of the time compared to their peers.  

About 30% of black students passed English assessment tests and 27% passed math as compared to 56% with their white peers. Native American students in Arizona fared worse, with only 20% passing English assessment tests and 21% passing math. 

On many reservations, even getting to school can be a herculean task

Income

The poverty rate for black Arizonans is double than what it is for white Arizonans: 18% are below the poverty line, compared to 9% for whites.

Native Americans in Arizona are also far more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts, with 34% living below the poverty line. 

Hispanic Arizonans also have double the poverty rate of their White contemporaries. 

While nationally the racial income gap has narrowed, certain factors have still created barriers such as access to higher education and workplace discrimination, according to experts. 

Housing

Arizona is already facing an affordable-housing shortage and has the third-most-severe affordable-housing shortage in the country, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition

In Arizona, black renters are the most cost-burdened of any renter in the state, with 26.6% of those saying they were severely cost-burdened being , according to a Harvard study

Severely cost-burdened means a renter is contributing 50% or more of their monthly income to their housing. 

Additionally, an analysis by Zillow found that the gap in home-ownership between blacks and whites has widened since 1900. 

In Phoenix, from 2007 to 2016, the home-ownership rate for blacks fell from 44% to 30% and white home-ownership has gone from roughly 75% to 70%. 

Criminal Justice

According to data reported to the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting System, which only 8 agencies in Arizona report data to, 78% of all violent crime and 82% of all property crimes was committed by white Arizonans in 2018. 

Nearly 15% of inmates in Arizona prisons are black, though only about 5% of the state’s population is black. A 2018 report found that in Arizona communities of color were disproportionately sentenced to spend longer prison times than their white counterparts. For example, black people receive prison sentences that are on average more than 50% longer than whites for drug offenses. 

A recent study of Maricopa County Sheriff Office traffic stops found that black drivers were more likely to be held than white drivers during traffic stops.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.