Download PDF Our country has suffered from rising income inequality and chronically slow growth in the living standards of low- and moderate-income Americans.
Lars Dietrich, and Thomas Shapiro As the United States rapidly becomes both a more diverse and unequal nation, policymakers face the urgent challenge of confronting growing wealth gaps by race and ethnicity. To create a more equitable and secure future, we must shift away from public policies that fuel and exacerbate racial disparities in wealth.
Until now there has been no systematic analysis of the types of public policies that offer the most potential for reducing the racial wealth gap. This paper pioneers a new tool, the Racial Wealth AuditTM, and uses it to evaluate the impact of housing, education, and labor markets on the wealth gap between white, Black, and Latino households and assesses how far policies that equalize outcomes in these areas could go toward reducing the gap.
Drawing on data from the nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation SIPP collected inthe analysis tests how current racial disparities in wealth would be projected to change if key contributing factors to the racial wealth gap were equalized.
From the continuing impact of redlining on American homeownership to the retreat from desegregation in public education, public policy has shaped these disparities, leaving them impossible to overcome without racially-aware policy change. Eliminating disparities in homeownership rates and returns would substantially reduce the racial wealth gap.
While 73 percent of white households owned their own homes inonly 47 percent of Latinos and 45 percent of Blacks were homeowners. In addition, Black and Latino homeowners saw less return in wealth on their investment in homeownership: Eliminating disparities in college graduation and the return on a college degree would have a modest direct impact on the racial wealth gap.
In34 percent of whites had completed four-year college degrees compared to just 20 percent of Blacks and 13 percent of Latinos. In addition, Black and Latino college graduates saw a lower return on their degrees than white graduates: Eliminating disparities in income—and even more so, the wealth return on income—would substantially reduce the racial wealth gap.
Black and Latino households also see less of a return than white households on the income they earn: This would shrink the wealth gap with white households by 43 and 50 percent respectively.
The Racial Wealth Audit is designed to fill the void in our understanding of the factors contributing to the racial wealth gap and clarify our ability to reduce the gap through policy.
This paper, which presents the first analyses using this new tool, will be followed by a series of policy briefs using the Racial Wealth Audit to analyze specific public policies and policy proposals.
Introduction America is becoming both a more diverse nation and a more unequal one. Over the past four decades, wealth inequality has skyrocketed, with nearly half of all wealth accumulation since going to the top 0.
As a result, racial wealth disparities, like wealth inequality overall, continue to grow. Political thinkers increasingly recognize that rapidly growing inequality threatens economic stability and growth.
But in a country where people of color will be a majority by mid-century, any successful push to reduce inequality must also address the structural racial inequities that hold back so many Americans. Stratospheric riches on the scale of the wealthiest Americans will never be accessible to the vast majority.
Wealth functions as a financial safety net that enables families to deal with unexpected expenses and disruptions of income without accumulating large amounts of debt. At the same time, wealth can improve the prospects of the next generation through inheritances or gifts.
Intergenerational transfers of wealth can play a pivotal role in helping to finance higher education, supply a down payment for a first home, or offer start-up capital for launching a new business.
The racial wealth gap is reinforced by federal policies that largely operate to increase wealth for those who already possess significant assets. Black and Latino households are disproportionately among those receiving little or no benefit. Unless key policies are restructured, the racial wealth gap—and wealth inequality in general—will continue to grow.
In this paper, we assess the major factors contributing to the racial wealth gap, considering how public policies around housing, education, and labor markets impact the distribution of wealth by race and ethnicity.
Each factor is evaluated using a new tool: The Racial Wealth Audit draws on a baseline of representative data discussed in this paper to provide an empirical foundation for existing wealth among groups and the major determinants of wealth accumulation.
For more information on the primary data source—the Survey of Income and Program Participation SIPP —and the analysis techniques used in this study, please see the Appendix. In this report, we briefly discuss the historic and policy roots of the wealth gap in each area and quantify the extent to which each policy area contributes to the current gap.This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book.
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