Tampa Bay study shows deep inequities between Black and white residents

The Tampa Bay Partnership published the study. The group says inequities will only grow during the pandemic if local leaders don't act.
Protesters march for equality along Central Avenue June 09 in St. Petersburg.
Protesters march for equality along Central Avenue June 09 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Aug. 21, 2020

Black children in Tampa Bay are almost three times as likely as white children to live in poverty. Black workers in the region are one-and-a-half times more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts — and that was before the pandemic.

A new report released by the Tampa Bay Partnership Friday shows just how pervasive racial inequities are throughout Tampa Bay. The study, called the “2020 Regional Equity Report,” shows Black people in Tampa Bay are far more likely to be paid less, live in poverty and under-perform in school when compared to white residents. Further, many of the equity gaps were deeper in Tampa Bay than in comparable metro areas.

With the pandemic forcing people out of work and school, the disparities are likely to deepen without intervention, according to the study’s authors.

“We have a structural and systemic problem within Tampa Bay that is affecting a very significant segment of the population,” said Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Rick Homans. “This is a reality check. We have seen the protests, we’ve seen the demonstrations. These are the numbers and data that is driving the passion and the cries for change.”

Related: One of Florida’s biggest disparities: How coronavirus spread in Pinellas’ Black community

The Partnership, a regional economic development advocacy group, collaborated with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the United Way Suncoast to create the 88-page study, which relied largely on U.S. Census Data.

Dave Sobush, the Partnership’s director of policy and research, said one of the study’s most distressing findings came out of its examination of wage gaps and education.

Only 20 percent of the region’s Black residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, putting it at 17th place out of 20 comparable metro areas. The only regions below Tampa Bay in that metric were South Florida, St. Louis and Jacksonville.

Even with a bachelor’s degree or higher education, Black workers in Tampa Bay are still making 20 percent less than their white colleagues.

Overall, Black residents are two times as likely to live in poverty compared to white residents. The region ranks 16th out of the other metro areas in that metric. The study shows Black students score lower on tests — about a 30 percent gap — compared to white students on the state’s third grade reading tests and third and eight grade math tests.

The group’s research also pointed out how some inequities, such as broadband access, are likely to grow because of the pandemic. That could, in turn, make the gap among student performance even greater. There is a nearly 14 percent gap in the number of white residents and Black residents with an at-home internet connection. That puts Tampa Bay at 18th among the 20 markets in that metric.

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Homans said he hopes local leaders are able to use the data to “explore the root causes and ultimately develop the real solutions that create a more equitable environment and community.”

The Partnership will present the findings during a virtual forum, open to all Tampa Bay residents, on Sept. 3 at noon.