The Racial Wealth Divide in America Is Staggering - and That's Before Trump Walks into the White House
After predicating his presidential campaign on racist incitement against Muslims, immigrants and Black Lives Matter, President-elect Donald Trump set to work appointing a cabinet that, so far, is setting new records as the wealthiest, and least diverse, in American history. In less than a month, that administration will take the White House of a country that faces the highest levels of wealth disparities along racial lines in nearly three decades.
The Pew Research Center determined in June that white homes possess roughly 13 times the wealth of their black counterparts. Analysis of federal government data also determined that black people in the United States are at least two times as likely as white people to be poor or unemployed. Meanwhile, homes headed by a black person “earn on average little more than half of what the average white households earns,” Pew concluded.
A separate Pew report concluded in 2014 that the wealth gap between white and black people in the United States is at its highest point since 1989.
Those findings were followed by a separate report released in August by the the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation for Enterprise Development found that, if economic trends over the past three decades continue on pace, it “will take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth white families have today.” It would take Latino families 84 years to accrue the same wealth as their white counterparts.
The study projects that, by 2014, when people of color are projected to comprise a majority of the U.S. population, the wealth divide with white families on one side and Latino and black families on the other will be double current levels.
“This growing wealth divide is no accident,” states the report. “Rather, it is the natural result of public policies past and present that have either been purposefully or thoughtlessly designed to widen the economic chasm between white households and households of color and between the wealthy and everyone else. In the absence of significant reforms, the racial wealth divide—and overall wealth inequality—are on track to become even wider in the future.”
This economic divide dovetails with racial segregation on the neighborhood level. A report authored by Century Foundation fellow Paul Jargowsky in 2015 found that “more than one in four of the black poor and nearly one in six of the Hispanic poor lives in a neighborhood of extreme poverty, compared to one in thirteen of the white poor.”
"Through exclusionary zoning and outright housing market discrimination, the upper-middle class and affluent could move to the suburbs, and the poor were left behind," he writes. "Public and assisted housing units were often constructed in ways that reinforced existing spatial disparities. Now, with gentrification driving up property values, rents, and taxes in many urban cores, some of the poor are moving out of central cities into decaying inner-ring suburbs."
Impacted communities have long been sounding the alarm about this trend. In their policy platform released earlier this year, the Movement for Black Lives proclaimed, “We demand economic justice for all and a reconstruction of the economy to ensure black communities have collective ownership, not merely access.”
The platform states, “Together, we demand an end to the wars against black people. We demand that the government repair the harms that have been done to black communities in the form of reparations and targeted long-term investments. We also demand a defunding of the systems and institutions that criminalize and cage us.”