Brandeis University News
students at historically black Spelman College in
The yawning wealth gap between black and white
families is one of the starkest legacies of America’s history of
racist social policymaking.
As far as simple statistical comparisons go, I can’t recall any
representations of it as striking as this chart from a recent report by the left-wing think tank
Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis
University. As it shows, the median white household headed by a
high-school dropout is wealthier today than the median black
household headed by someone who went to college. The latter
category includes those who at least attended a two- or four-year
college, but not graduate degree holders.
Demos and IASP
That’s how much of a head start white Americans have. The median
black American who pursues higher education is still poorer,
judged by net worth, than a white person who never finished 12th
I’m guessing that this stat is driven partly by debt — net worth
measures a household’s assets minus its liabilities, and black
students tend to borrow heavily to attend college.
Nonetheless, it’s part of a larger pattern that Demos and IASP
identify in which black families tend to have a net worth that’s
lower, or roughly equal to, white families who have made what a
lot of people might consider worse life decisions. Two-parent
black families have a lower median net worth than white single
parents ($16,000 vs. $35,800); black Americans younger than 55
who work full time have an only slightly higher median net worth
than whites who work part time ($10,800 vs. $9,200).
They also note research showing that black families tend to spend
less than whites in similar income brackets, so thrift doesn’t
appear to be the issue.
What accounts for these differences then? One major factor is
that middle-class white families have been able to …