The term “racial wealth gap” is used to describe the difference in accumulated wealth that White households enjoy versus their counterparts of color. Researchers have long tried to attribute the contemporary differences—which are rooted in discriminatory legacies from slavery to housing segregation—to so-called life choices, including education and single parenthood. But a new study from public policy nonprofit Demos says that “individual choices are not sufficient to erase a century of accumulated wealth: structural racism trumps personal responsibility.”
“The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap” uses data from the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to explain why White adults who drop out before finishing high school, have children out of wedlock and work part time jobs have greater wealth (defined as assets minus debt) than Black and Latinx adults who completed more schooling, raise their families in a two-parent home and work full time. Per the SCF, the median White household has $13 in wealth for every dollar in the median Black household, and $10 for every dollar in a Latinx home.
These three graphs break down the biggest takeaways from the study, which was released yesterday (February 6):
The median White adult who attended college has 7.2 times more wealth than the median Black adult who attended college and 3.9 times more wealth than the median Latino adult who attended college.
The median White single parent has 2.2 times more wealth than the median Black two-parent household and 1.9 times more wealth than the median Latino two-parent household.
The median White household that includes a full-time worker has 7.6 times more wealth than the median Black household with a full-time worker. The median White household that includes a full-time worker also has 5.4 times more wealth than the median Latino household with a full-time worker.
The study closes with a push for policymakers to evaluate proposed polices for their potential to shrink the wealth gap between races in America.
“For centuries, White households enjoyed wealth-building opportunities that were systematically denied to people of color. Today our policies continue to impede efforts by African-American and Latino households to obtain equal access to economic security,” Amy Traub, report co-author and associate director of policy and research at Demos said in a statement. “When research shows that racial privilege now outweighs a fundamental key to economic mobility, like higher education, we must demand our policymakers acknowledge this problem and create policies that address structural inequity.”