They are a structural part of the economic system in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968 By the middle of the twenty-first century, the United States will be a “majority minority” nation.2 If we hope to ensure a strong middle class, historically the backbone of the national economy, then the financial health of households of color will become even more urgent than it is today.3 Closing the persistent “wealth divide” between white households and households of color, already a matter of social justice, must become a priority for broader economic policy.
The size of that wealth divide is sobering: the median African American household’s net worth is only $7,113, according to the Census Bureau, while the comparable figure for white households is $111,740.4 As we consider what it is going to take to close the wealth divide, it is useful first to understand and acknowledge the level of resources it took to create it in the first place.
Immigrants of color who come to this country with fewer professional skills or without an elite education become part of the large share of the population that is being left behind by the wealthiest Americans.
In the last few years, a series of high-profile events, both tragedies (the killings of unarmed African American youth) and vulgarities (racial and ethnic slurs and stereotypes from NBA owners and presidential candidates) have reminded the American public of the reality that racial inequality and racism are far from a thing of the past.
Chapter two assesses the impact of over-the-counter access to emergency contraception on women’s educational attainment using variation in access produced by state legislation since 1998.
Approximately 5% of American women of reproductive age experience an unintended pregnancy annually, indicating a significant unmet need for contraception.Meanwhile, during this same timeframe (1979 to 2008), six in ten whites saw more than a ten percent increase to their incomes, with two-thirds of this group seeing an increase of more than 20 percent.15 As with income, assets in America are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest.The richest 10 percent of Americans now owns 70 percent of the wealth.16 The more this wealth concentration intensifies, the less likely the wealth divide between whites and communities of color will ever close.Wealth inequality is another source of great concern for the nation. Census Bureau finds that from 1979 to 2008, the real income of the poorest one-fifth of Americans decreased by 4 percent.As noted previously, the median net worth of African American families is less than 10 percent that of white families.14 Since the Reagan era of the 1980s, the nation’s wealth has been increasingly concentrating in the hands of the richest Americans. For the middle one-fifth, real family income increased by 14 percent.Chapter one explores whether college students strategically delay exiting college in response to poor labor market conditions. Strategic delay is observed among both men and women.Results indicate that students delay graduation by approximately 0.4 months for each percentage point increase in junior-year unemployment rates, implying the average student delays by approximately half a semester during a typical recession.According to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll, a little more than 70 percent of white Americans think that African Americans have achieved or will soon achieve racial equality.According to this same poll, African Americans are much more tempered in their optimism, but optimistic nonetheless. Census Bureau, in 2013, 83.4 percent of African Americans received a high school diploma or its equivalent, up from 25.6 percent in 1964.9 In 1968, the college graduation rate for African Americans was 38 percent that of the white rate.10 Today it is more than 60 percent that of whites.11 There has also been progress for the poorest African Americans.When the GI bill passed, segregation and white supremacy were the law of the land in many states and the de facto reality throughout the nation.So injecting massive resources into that particular status quo had the effect of intensifying a racial economic inequality that endures even today.