The racial wealth divide is greater now than it was 40 years ago—and persistent structural racism is causing that gap to grow. That’s according to a new report, “Ten Solutions to Bridge the Racial Wealth Divide,” released today (April 16) by the Institute for Policy Studies, the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the National Community Reinvestment Committee.
Wealth, the money a family has after paying debt, indicates one’s financial stability, upward mobility, ability to accumulate more wealth and ability to transfer money to future generations. In the United States, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have more wealth than all Black households plus a quarter of Latinx households, per the report. The median White family in the United States has 41 times more wealth ($146,984) than the median Black family ($3,557), and 22 times more wealth than the median Latinx family ($6,591).
This racial wealth divide has been a part of this country’s legacy for centuries. From the report:
It has been created and held in place by public policies that have evolved with time including slavery, Jim Crow, red lining, mass incarceration, among many others, It has also been experienced differently by different racial groups who have varying experiences of disenfranchisement. Put simply, this problem is complex. Solutions are also complex and there is no single panacea.
To address these deep disparities, the authors propose 10 solutions, including policies already proposed by members of Congress, that go beyond individual behavior and minor adjustments, and instead tackle the deep structural underpinnings of wealth inequality, including inheritance, health outcomes and tax expenditures:
- Set up universal baby bonds—federally managed accounts that provide children with an endowment that can be used for education, home ownership and the launch of a business.
- Guarantee employment and establish a fair minimum wage. Per the report, Black and Latinx workers are twice as likely as their White counterparts to have a job that pays less than what’s needed to cover basic living expenses.
- Address the “drastic shortage” of affordable housing via methods that include providing the down-payment for first-time homebuyers in historically segregated or red lined communities.
- Pass a Medicare For All Act that guarantees high quality health care and prevents bankruptcy resulting from the cost of medical expenses.
- Create a postal banking system to aid the disproportionately large number of people of color who lack bank accounts.
- Institute a significant tax increase on the ultra-wealthy. This involves creating a direct tax on wealth, implementing a robust tax on inherited wealth and the expanding marginal income tax rates.
- Combat the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and shift tax expenditures toward wealth-building programs for low-wealth people, especially people of color.
- Create a Congressional Committee on Reparations that studies and works toward a reparations plan or policy that addresses the nation’s violent history of enslavement and Jim Crow laws.
- Improve data collection on racial wealth divide that includes localized data and more specific groups, including Latinx immigrant communities and Native Americans separated by tribal origin.
- Adopt a racial equity lens to address public policy to understand the impact of the racial wealth divide.
Read the full report here.