As the world honors the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, a new study gives New Jersey high marks for racial progress.

April 1965: Dr Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) addresses civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
April 1965: Dr Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) addresses civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis to determine which U.S. states have achieved the most racial progress.

To identify the states that are most racially integrated and have come the furthest in their efforts of racial progress, WalletHub's analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key metrics.

"We look at this to see how these states have really integrated blacks and how this has changed since 1970," said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst.

New Jersey ranked in the top-tier for racial progress, according to the study, finishing sixth among states. Georgia, New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas and Maryland rounded out the top five, while Wisconsin, Vermont, Iowa, Minnesota and Maine were in the bottom.

Rankings Based on Racial Progress

These rankings measure the level of racial progress achieved over time.

Source: WalletHub

Gonzalez said the Garden State received high marks in several categories.

"Especially when it comes to the education system, which New Jersey is always well-known for, and civic engagement, voter turnout," Gonzalez said.

And while the study found the state took huge strides since the 1970's, Gonzalez said there are still some issues for New Jersey to work on.

"The two things that New Jersey does have to improve upon, and really help integrate blacks more are employment and wealth," Gonzalez said. "Whites are still making significantly more than blacks on average, about two-thirds more."

In fact, New Jersey ranked 18th in racial integration. Hawaii ranked first, with Minnesota coming in last.

Rankings Based on Racial Integration

These rankings measure the current integration level of whites and blacks:

Source: WalletHub

The figures below show New Jersey's rankings in the 10 areas studied, which compared the gaps between whites and blacks over time:

Racial Progress in New Jersey (1=Biggest; 25=Avg.)

  • 21st - Change in median annual income gap;
  • 27th - Change in labor-force participation rate gap;
  • 16th - Change in homeownership rate gap;
  • 24th - Change in poverty rate gap;
  • 6th - Change in business ownership rate gap;
  • 25th - Change in gap in percent of residents with at least a high school diploma;
  • 5th - Change in NAEP test scores gap; and
  • 2nd - Change in voter turnout gap.

According to a 2014 Gallup survey, 13 percent of Americans identified race relations as the nation's most important problem. It was the highest recorded percentage since 1992.

Matthew White is the midday anchor on NJ 101.5.  He can be reached via email at:

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