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By the numbers: Amid the protests, taking stock of racial inequality in Virginia

By the numbers: Amid the protests, taking stock of racial inequality in Virginia

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Thousands of Virginians have marched in protest over the past week in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The largely peaceful gatherings — the initial two nights saw vandalism and looting that led to a state-ordered curfew in Richmond, Virginia Beach and Hampton — are bringing down Confederate monuments and have brought to light again the racial disparities in how people of color are treated in Virginia and across the U.S.

The protests began as a call for an end to police brutality, but marchers are also demanding widespread changes toward equality across society.

They’ve brought up economic disparities and differences within the criminal justice system. They’ve highlighted differences in educational attainment and housing.

“If there are enough sparks festering because of social and economic disparities and brutality and anger and prejudice and frustration, eventually there will be an explosion,” Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, said last week. “America is now facing her explosion.”

Inequality in Virginia, home to the former capital of the Confederacy, starts at birth and cuts across all realms of life, according to data collected by the state and others, including these 10 areas:

Mortality rates of mothers

Over the past 20 years, black women in Virginia have been more than twice as likely as white women to die due to pregnancy complications.

Black maternal mortality rate: 79.3 per 100,000 live births

White maternal mortality rate: 34.2 per 100,000 live births

Source: Virginia Department of Health

Life expectancy

Black people in Virginia also live shorter lives than white people. Where you live can have a large impact on life expectancy. In Richmond, for example, children born within 5 miles of downtown can have up to a 20-year difference in life expectancy.

Black life expectancy in Virginia: 76.8 years

White life expectancy in Virginia: 80 years

Source: Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health

Third-grade reading

Whether a student is reading on grade level at the end of third grade is seen by many experts as a key predictor in a student’s academic success.

Black third-graders in Virginia: 57%

Hispanic third-graders in Virginia: 55%

White Virginia third-graders: 80%

Source: Virginia Department of Education

College enrollment rate

The percentage of black students who graduated from Virginia high schools in 2018 was slightly lower (89.6%) than the percentage of all students (91.6%), but the gap was larger for students going to college. Hispanic students in the state finish high school at an even lower rate (80.1%) and not as many go to college. And minorities who go to college take out more in loans.

Black Virginia students: 60%

Hispanic Virginia students: 58%

White Virginia students: 70%

Source: Virginia Department of Education


Across the country, homes in majority-black neighborhoods are undervalued by 23% compared to houses in similar quality neighborhoods that have either few or no black residents. Black neighborhoods see higher eviction rates as well. A renter in a predominantly black neighborhood in Richmond, which in 2016 had the second-highest rate of evictions in the country, is at a greater chance of being evicted than someone living in a predominantly white neighborhood.

Richmond eviction rate as white population increases 10%: Drops 0.9%

Richmond eviction rate as black population increases 10%: Rises 1.2%

Source: RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University and Brookings Institute

School-to-prison pipeline

Black students are more likely to face a long-term suspension or expulsion from school than their white peers. Advocates call the system the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Black students: 5.8 instances of severe discipline per 1,000 students

Hispanic students: 1.3 instances of severe discipline per 1,000 students

White students: 1.3 instances of severe discipline per 1,000 students

Source: Legal Aid Justice Center and Virginia Department of Education

Poverty rate

Black people in Virginia are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white people.

Black poverty rate: 18%

Hispanic poverty rate: 13%

White poverty rate: 8%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Unemployment rate

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, black and Hispanic Virginians were nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as white people, according to data from the last three months of 2019.

Black unemployment rate: 3.9%

Hispanic unemployment rate: 3.8%

White unemployment rate: 2.1%

Source: Economic Policy Institute


In the criminal justice system, law enforcement disproportionately arrest black people, specifically for what are called “Group A” and “Group B” offenses — which range from the most serious crimes to offenses like drug charges or passing bad checks.

Black arrest rate: 68 per 1,000 people

White arrest rate: 26 per 1,000 people

Source: Virginia State Police and U.S. Census Bureau


People of color in Virginia, specifically black people, are overrepresented in the state’s prisons and jails.

Black imprisonment rate: 1,386 per 100,000 people

White imprisonment rate: 280 per 100,000 people

Source: The Sentencing Project

Not all data sources include figures for Hispanics.

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Twitter: @jmattingly306

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