Friday, April 26, 2013

USA Today: Study shows racial wealth gap continues to widen

Nearly fifty years since Martin Luther King's Jr, "I Have a Dream" speech, racial equality has still not come into fruition in the United States. In fact, the new inequality is in the subtle form of financial assets rather than overt discrimination. According to this USA Today article:
Years after the civil rights movement, racial inequality continues to deepen.

The wealth gap between white and African-American families has nearly tripled over 25 years, according to a study released today by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University.

Although African-American family income has increased over time, white families have accumulated much more wealth. By tracking families, the study found that the gap between white and African-American family wealth increased from $85,070 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009.

Many Americans still believe that racial inequality is related to individual behavior, choices, character, marriage and child bearing, says Thomas Shapiro, IASP director. But homeownership has been the biggest cause of racial wealth disparity, followed by income, the study found. In the past 25 years, education has failed to be the great equalizer that many expected.

Owning a home has largely benefited white families because they're more able to have family financial assistance for down payments, have easier access to credit and buy homes years earlier than African-American families. As a result, their home equity has increased, providing more wealth and financial security.

In contrast, the study found, African Americans are more recent homeowners who tended to have high-risk mortgages and to be more vulnerable to home foreclosure.

The nation has long-standing roots in racial discrimination in hiring, training and promotion, and in the past 25 years, that has made it harder for African Americans to build income and have a financial cushion, fueling racial inequality, the study says.

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