Meanwhile, during this same timeframe (1979 to 2008), six in ten whites saw more than a ten percent increase to their incomes, with two-thirds of this group seeing an increase of more than 20 percent.15 As with income, assets in America are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest.
The richest 10 percent of Americans now owns 70 percent of the wealth.16 The more this wealth concentration intensifies, the less likely the wealth divide between whites and communities of color will ever close.
They are a structural part of the economic system in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968 By the middle of the twenty-first century, the United States will be a “majority minority” nation.2 If we hope to ensure a strong middle class, historically the backbone of the national economy, then the financial health of households of color will become even more urgent than it is today.3 Closing the persistent “wealth divide” between white households and households of color, already a matter of social justice, must become a priority for broader economic policy.
The size of that wealth divide is sobering: the median African American household’s net worth is only $7,113, according to the Census Bureau, while the comparable figure for white households is $111,740.4 As we consider what it is going to take to close the wealth divide, it is useful first to understand and acknowledge the level of resources it took to create it in the first place.
This racial wealth divide extends to communities of color beyond African Americans.
In this post–civil rights era, communities of color in the United States increasingly are recent immigrants.17 In effect, more and more people of color are being added to a country that is more and more economically segregated.Today, as we look back on the term of the first African American president, one would hope that much of the racial inequality between African Americans and white Americans had in fact been overcome.Indeed, this is what most people in the country believed soon after the election of President Obama.According to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll, a little more than 70 percent of white Americans think that African Americans have achieved or will soon achieve racial equality.According to this same poll, African Americans are much more tempered in their optimism, but optimistic nonetheless. Census Bureau, in 2013, 83.4 percent of African Americans received a high school diploma or its equivalent, up from 25.6 percent in 1964.9 In 1968, the college graduation rate for African Americans was 38 percent that of the white rate.10 Today it is more than 60 percent that of whites.11 There has also been progress for the poorest African Americans.Wealth inequality is another source of great concern for the nation. Census Bureau finds that from 1979 to 2008, the real income of the poorest one-fifth of Americans decreased by 4 percent.As noted previously, the median net worth of African American families is less than 10 percent that of white families.14 Since the Reagan era of the 1980s, the nation’s wealth has been increasingly concentrating in the hands of the richest Americans. For the middle one-fifth, real family income increased by 14 percent.This dissertation consists of three chapters on labor economics.The first two chapters focus on education, and the third examines inequality and incarceration. state unemployment rates to identify the causal impact of unemployment rates on time to graduation.Results indicate that cohorts with greater access to emergency contraception are more likely to graduate from high school and attain the associate’s degree.Effects for high school graduation are most pronounced among black women, while increases in associate’s degree attainment are driven primarily by white and Hispanic women.