We were inspired to figure out the top places where BMAW couples are doing the best economically after reading a recent Forbes article, The Cities Where African Americans Are Doing The Best Economically 2018. For those new to this blog, BMAW is shorthand for Black Male, Asian Women couples. The Forbes article highlights that Blacks are doing the best in predominantly Southern and some Middle Atlantic cities. However, something about the Forbes list though seemed off to us. Should all Blacks start to pack up and move to these Southern and Mid-Atlantic cities in order to prosper? It made us wonder, what are the top places where BMAW couples are doing the best economically and how do these two list compare. Given that Asian concentration is not as heavy in the South in particular, we suspected that the top places where BMAW couples are doing the best would look a little different.
Two caveats before we hop into the details. Whenever you discuss and compare economics of two different groups, it is very easy to appear elitist or offensive to one group or the other. That is not our purpose here by any means and we all realize that economics by race is a much deeper discussion with many ugly truths as to how and why the data stacks up the way it does. That said, our purpose here is merely to have a fact based discussion around what the data is showing us and by no means are we trying to minimize or offend one group or another. Our philosophy is that the more that all of us know about the facts, the more informed and better decisions we can all make to improve the data and the facts in the future. The second caveat is one that we frequently state. In any article as much as we try to be fact based, inevitably some generalities will creep into the mix in an article of this nature. As we always recommend, if your experience does not fit any of the generalities that we discuss, please adjust those generalities to fit your experience. As always, we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below and we appreciate everyone who visits this blog!
Data and Methodology
First, let’s talk about the definition of “best economically”. The Forbes article defined “best economically” by looking at 3 criteria, a) home ownership rate, b) entrepreneurship as measured by the self-employment rates, and c) household income. The Forbes article then further stratified the list with a fourth factor, the change in African American population, in order to give more weight to cities where African Americans are “voting with their feet” by moving into these cities as opposed to away from these cities. All four factors were weighted equally at 25% in the Forbes article to derive a measure of “best economically”. While we do not necessarily disagree with the Forbes article criteria, we wanted to be a little more simple and direct about “best economically”.
For our purposes, we will define “best economically” with one criterion – household income. Again, we mainly are just looking to be simple and direct, but also with enough household income, the decision to own or rent becomes a choice. We know plenty of high income people who rent simply because it is easier, gives them more location flexibility, and avoids the hassles of home ownership. We also know high income people who own their investment properties and then use the income from their investment properties to pay the rent on their main house which they rent. The point being that renting versus owning does not necessarily make you better off economically. Similarly, we know plenty of entrepreneurs who are struggling financially and plenty of non-entrepreneurs who are living great lives financially, so again being an entrepreneur does not necessarily make you better off economically. The one factor we will use to stratify the places is to limit our analysis to places with at least 500 married BMAW couples. Keep in mind that 86% of all US counties do not have any married BMAW couples and across the US, there are only 31 counties with more than 500 married BMAW couples in their county. So we will use this married BMAW population bar to make sure we are only comparing cities with at least a small critical mass of married BMAW couples.
Three other differences between our analysis and the Forbes article area:
- a) Our analysis is focused on counties whereas the Forbes article is focused on metro areas as best we can tell. This is a matter of convenience as we have already compiled the 2015 census county-level data for other articles, plus we like the detail you get with county-level data.
- b) By definition, we are focused on married couple households as opposed to the Forbes article which is focused on all Black households, married or not. We recognize that part of the increase in household income in our analysis is due to the fact that all of the households in our analysis are married.
- c) Our data is based on 2015 census data whereas the Forbes article uses data from both 2016 and 2017. This is also a matter of convenience since we already have the 2015 census data compiled. For those who might be concerned about this difference, the overall US median household income increased by 3.3% from 2015 to 2016 and African American median household income increased by 5.5% from 2015 to 2016.
Finally, our regular ABC readers know that we tap the US Census records and slice and dice that data in ways that few others have ever done when it comes to Asian and Black couples. The data for married couples broken down by race sits uncompiled in the US Census records and compiling and analyzing this data is not for the faint of heart. Props to the folks at Asian-Nation as we modeled our statistical analysis of the census data after the same approach used by Asian-Nation.
Best Places for Black Households Economically – According to Forbes
Here are the top 10 cities where according to Forbes, Black people are doing the best economically. In addition to median household income by city, Forbes also considered home ownership rates, entrepreneurship as measured by self-employment rates, and growth in African American population with each factor weighted evenly at 25%. For reference purposes, the corresponding median household income for Blacks nationwide in 2016 was $38,555, which was unfortunately the lowest for all races in the US at that time. Also for reference, the median household income for Asians nationwide in 2016 was $80,720, the highest of all races in the US at that time. We also are adding the median Black household income to median overall metro area household income comparison for each city which was not included in the original Forbes article. So for example, Richmond’s comparison score of -31% means that the median Black household income is 31% lower than Richmond’s median overall household income. Across all of the US, in 2016, Black median household income was 33% lower than the overall US median household income.
10. Richmond, VA, Median Black household income: $43,265; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -31%
9. Miami, FL, Median Black household income: $40,329; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -22%
8. Houston, TX, Median Black household income: $47,588; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -23%
7. San Antonio, TX, Median Black household income: $46,754; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -17%
6. Charlotte, NC, Median Black household income: $42,108; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -30%
5. Raleigh, NC, Median Black household income: $49, 433; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -31%
4. Baltimore, MD, Median Black household income: $53,231; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -31%
3. Austin, TX, Median Black household income: $49,871; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -30%
1 Tie. Atlanta, GA, Median Black household income: $48,161; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -23%
1 Tie. Washington, DC, Median Black household income: $69,246; Black to Overall Metro Household Income comparison = -28%
All of these cities are in the South or the Middle Atlantic (Virginia, Maryland, DC).
Top Places Where BMAW Couples Are Doing The Best Economically
For the ABC analysis, we will show both the median and the average BMAW household incomes in each place. The median household income is directly comparable to the Forbes article median household. The best way to think about the median is that exactly half of the population will make more than the median and exactly half of the population will make less than the median. The average can best be thought of as if you take all of the income from all of the BMAW couples in that place, and you evenly divide it out to each couple, the average is the amount each couple would receive. When you have lots of high income earners in a certain area, the average can be much higher than the median. When the income in an area is already spread pretty evenly, the average will be much closer to the median. We also show the BMAW to overall county median household income comparison similar to the way we did for the Forbes analysis. The ranking for counties below is based on the median in order to be most comparable to the Forbes article. Also since our analysis is at the county level, we show both the county and the largest city in the county. Each of these counties will have a minimum of 500 married BMAW couples as of 2015.
10. Maricopa County, AZ, (Phoenix), Median BMAW household income = $79,980; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +47%; and Average BMAW household income = $90,105
9. Solano County, CA, (Vallejo), Median BMAW household income = $80,000; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +20%; and Average BMAW household income = $95,359
8. Contra Costa County, CA, (Concord), Median BMAW household income = $85,300; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +6%; and Average BMAW household income = $107,548
7. Fulton County, GA, (Atlanta), Median BMAW household income = $86,000; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +50%; and Average BMAW household income = $93,217
6. Prince George’s County, MD, (Bowie), Median BMAW household income = $90,000; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +21%; and Average BMAW household income = $103,737
5. Palm Beach County, FL, (West Palm Beach), Median BMAW household income = $91,500; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +71%; and Average BMAW household income = $113,287
4. Alameda County, CA, (Oakland), Median BMAW household income = $95,205; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +26%; and Average BMAW household income = $129,976
3. New York County, NY, (Manhattan), Median BMAW household income = $109,200; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +50%; and Average BMAW household income = $183,508
2. Nassau County, NY, (Hempstead), Median BMAW household income = $127,000; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +28%; and Average BMAW household income = $143,188
1. Montgomery County, MD, (Rockville), Median BMAW household income = $138,250; BMAW to Overall county median household income comparison = +39%; and Average BMAW household income = $149,303
Looking at the results, we are struck by two facts, a) the distribution of cities is much wider for cities where BMAW households are doing best versus the distribution of cities where Blacks overall are doing best, and b) the household incomes are much higher for BMAW households. Only two southern cities (Atlanta and West Palm Beach) and four western cities (Phoenix, Vallejo, Concord, and Oakland) are shown on the list of “best economic” BMAW cities, compared to seven southern cities and zero western cities being shown on the list of “best economic” cities for Blacks. Much of this difference is due to representation where Asians are simply not as represented in the south as they are in the west and the east. Also as we discussed in a prior article, Top 15 Cities For BMAW Dating, unfortunately Asians and Blacks tend not to live in the same neighborhoods in the US. A Brown University study found that in the average Black neighborhood in the US, Asians only make up 3.7% of that neighborhood. So on a list of cities with heavy Black representation, it’s not surprising that the list doesn’t match up well with a list of cities with the heaviest Asian and Black couple representation.
Then regarding household income levels, as we mentioned earlier, part of this difference in income will be driven by the fact that the BMAW households are all married couples whereas the Black households are a mix of single and married households. So you would expect a list of married households to have higher income than a list of mixed single and married households. This is also partly why BMAW median household incomes are higher than the overall county median household incomes – because we are comparing all married couple households to a mix of single and married households in the overall county. Another part of the income delta though can be explained by the fact that Asian women tend to marry up when they marry Black men. As we discussed in a prior article, How Much Does Education and Income Matter in Blasian Couple Relationships, in the general population, Asian women tend to make more than Black men in the US, however Asian women who marry Black men tend to make significantly less than their Black husbands. In other words, on average, Asian women tend to marry higher income Black men more than they marry average income Black men. This tendency would also give BMAW households a much higher income than Black households.
Finally, as we have discussed in other articles, it is hard to lump the experience of all Asians in the US into one composite view as this analysis attempts to do. The experience of BMAW couples with Chinese wives can be very different than the experience of BMAW couples with Vietnamese wives which can be different than the experience of BMAW couples with Pacific Islander wives. In a prior article, Places Where Asian Women Find Educated and Well Paid Black Men, in the back half of that article, we break down specifics of where each Asian ethnicity wife finds high income and educated Black men. So for example, higher income BMAW couples with Japanese wives are found most often in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, while higher income BMAW couples with Cambodian wives are found most often in Tacoma, Las Vegas, and San Antonio. It’s different for each ethnicity. The same article also breaks down BMAW couples by the man’s ethnicity, so for example, we see that Oakland is the top place for higher income BMAW couples with African husbands, whereas West Palm Beach is the top place for higher income BMAW couples with Afro-Caribbean husbands. Check out the article for lots more details.
When we first saw the Forbes article for the best places for African Americans, the list seemed to be intuitively off for some reason. We thought, are these really the top places where Blacks are doing the best economically? Then we wondered what are the top places where BMAW couples are doing the best economically and how do the two lists compare. As we see, there are big differences, and most of the differences can be readily explained. However, the bigger conclusion we draw from all of this is that we all have to be careful about just blindly accepting that the best places for Blacks published by a leading economic outlet like Forbes, are indeed the best places for all Black people. This exercise shows us that we must always adjust the analysis to fit our personal situations and challenge widely held beliefs that x, y, or z are always the best for all Black people. Every Black person is different and what fits one group of Black people may or may not fit another group of Black people.
Much love to everyone!