Purpose Death by suicide among Black people in the USA have increased by 35.6% within the past decade. Among youth under the age of 24 years old, death by suicide among Black youth have risen substantially. Researchers have found that structural inequities (e.g. educational attainment) and state-specific variables (e.g. minimum wage, incarceration rates) may increase risk for suicide among Black people compared to White people in the USA. Given the limited understanding of how such factors systematically affect Black and White communities differently, this paper aims to examine these relationships across US states using publicly available data from 2015 to 2019. Design/methodology/approach Data were aggregated from various national sources including the National Center for Education Statistics, the Department of Labor, the FBI’s Crime in the US Reports and the Census Bureau. Four generalized estimating equations (GEE) models were used to examine the impact of state-level variables on suicide rates: Black adults suicide rate, Black youth (24 years and younger) suicide rate, White adult suicide rate and White youth suicide rate. Each model includes state-level hate group rates, minimum wage, violent crime rates, gross vacancy rates, and race-specific state-level poverty rates, incarceration rates and graduation rates. Findings Across all GEE models, suicide rates rose between 2015–2019 (ß = 1.11 – 2.78; ß = 0.91 – 1.82; ß = 0.52 – 3.09; ß = 0.16 – 1.53). For the Black adult suicide rate, state rates increased as the proportion of Black incarceration rose (ß = 1.14) but fell as the gross housing vacancy rates increased (ß = −1.52). Among Black youth, state suicide rates rose as Black incarcerations increased (ß = 0.93). For the adult White suicide rate, state rates increased as White incarceration (ß = 1.05) and percent uninsured increased (ß = 1.83), but fell as White graduation rates increased (ß = −2.36). Finally, among White youth, state suicide rates increased as the White incarceration rate rose (ß = 0.55) and as the violent crime rate rose (ß = 0.55) but decreased as state minimum wages (ß = −0.61), White poverty rates (ß = −0.40) and graduation rates increased (ß = −0.97). Originality/value This work underscores how structural factors are associated with suicide rates, and how such factors differentially impact White and Black communities.