The subject of black wealth has always been a tricky one. After years of slavery, racism, terrorist attacks, and Jim Crow laws, our wealth does not match that of our white counterparts. Many black families do not have the financial freedom to pass wealth down to their children. For these reasons, The Guardian has published an article warning that the median wealth for black Americans will fall to $0 by 2053 if current trends continue.
According to the study done by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies, not only black Americans are facing this struggle, but Latino Americans as well. Their median wealth will hit $0 about two decades later.
“By 2020, median black and Latino households stand to lose nearly 18% and 12% of the wealth they held in 2013 respectively, while median white household wealth increases by 3%,” the report states. “At that point – just three years from now – white households are projected to own 86 times more wealth than black households, and 68 times more wealth than Latino households.”
Although the United States is projected to be majority non-white by 2044, researchers say this will ironically spell major economic peril for the nation.
“If the racial wealth divide continues to accelerate, the economic conditions of black and Latino households will have an increasingly adverse impact on the economy writ large, because the majority of US households will no longer have enough wealth to stake their claim in the middle class.”
The authors of the report look to the discriminatory tactics of housing policies as a major reason for lack of wealth.
“The middle class didn’t just happen by market forces, and the whiteness of the middle class didn’t just happen by market forces. Both were intentional,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, a senior fellow at Prosperity Now and one of the report’s authors.
Not only did black people start generations behind, wealth was never geared towards us in the first place.
The report also notes that recent economic crises have widened this wealth gap. Black median wealth has never recovered from the 2001 recession, nor Latino median wealth from the 2008 financial collapse. White median wealth, on the other hand, was left unaffected in 2002.
“You find first-generation, even second-generation African-American and Latino households that have professional jobs and are making ‘middle-income money’ – but they have the wealth of a white high-school dropout,” Asante-Muhammad said. “They’re not truly part of a middle class – which would mean financial stability, money to weather challenging economic situations, or money to invest in the economic opportunities of their children.”
So then, how do we combat this?
"Invest in a 21st-century American middle class. We need to make sure, for the first time, that we are investing in a middle class that includes communities of color," Asante-Muhammad advises. "This generally hasn’t been done before.”