It’s impossible to think about racial injustice in the U.S. without looking at the distribution of dollars.
In many ways that Americans work to establish themselves financially — through the stock market, net worth and homeownership — Black families trail White families.
“To put it simply, we don’t have a level playing field,” said Evelyn Brodkin, an associate professor at the University of Chicago. “Economic opportunity depends on where we live, go to school and who we know.
“But these opportunities are not distributed equally by race.”
The recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic will only exacerbate racial inequality, said Edward N. Wolff, an economics professor at New York University. Unemployment rates are already higher among Black Americans.
“The racial wealth gap is going to show a big upward spike over the pandemic,” Wolff predicted.
Here are four figures that show the stark racial economic inequality in the U.S., comparing White, Black and Hispanic households.
(Most of the calculations were provided by Wolff, and are based on data from The National Bureau of Economic Research in 2016, the most recent year for which it was available. He didn’t currently have access to data on Asian-Americans or other ethnic groups.)
More than 70% of White families own a house in the U.S., compared to just 44% of Black families and 45% of Hispanic families.
White families have an average home value of $200,000 and Black families have an average home value of $54,000, compared to $73,000 for Hispanic families.
“The history of policies that supported discrimination in homeownership and racial segregation is well documented,” said Allan MacNeill, a professor at Webster University. “They include practices of redlining by banks, exclusionary housing covenants in white neighborhoods and government loan programs that explicitly denied loans to African-Americans.”
He added: “While these policies may no longer exist, wealth imbalances, once created, are self-reinforcing and continue across generations.”
2. Stock ownership
More than 57% of White households own stocks, while just 30% of Black households and 27% of Hispanic families have equities, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
White families have an average of $230,000 invested in the market, compared to $17,000 for Black households and $30,000 for Hispanic families.
“These figures are all components of family wealth and they are correlated and reinforce one another,” MacNeill said. “If you do not have enough savings to afford to buy a home and build equity, you also do not have money to invest in the stock market.”
3. Student debt
The student debt crisis has also been borne disproportionately by people of color.
Around 85% of Black college graduates carry student debt, compared with 70% of White college graduates and 66% of Hispanic graduates, according to SavingforCollege.com.
White college students graduate with an average of $30,000 in student loans, while Black graduates leave with $34,000 and Hispanic graduates with $25,000.
4. Net worth
In all, the average White household has a net worth of $875,600, while the average Black household has a net worth of $126,300. Hispanic families have a net worth of $166,000.
Around 15% of White families have a zero or negative net worth, compared to nearly 40% of Black families and 30% of Hispanic households.
“It is hard to imagine significantly improving the lives of Black Americans and addressing our long history of racism without a commitment to reduce extreme wealth inequality,” MacNeill said.