Another Look at the Racial Wealth Gap

I've written previously about racial differences in wealth, which present themselves both in aggregate and when you control for income. The prior posts all used the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances data from 2010. Because that was in the heat of the recession, it may be suspect standing alone. Here, I present racial wealth gap figures calculated from the SCF microdata for the years 1989 through 2010.

We start with median family wealth broken by down by race.

In the period, median white wealth peaks at around $180k and never goes below $100k. It takes a dive between 2007 and 2010 because of the recession, but I suspect it will snap back when the 2013 figures come out in a few months. Meanwhile, median black and hispanic wealth scarcely gets above $20k.

In next graph, we have median black and hispanic wealth as a percentage of median white wealth.

Essentially, the median black and hispanic family holds between 6 and 16 percent of the wealth of the median white family in a given year. On average, the median hispanic family has 11.7 percent of the wealth of the median white family, and the median black family has 12.8 percent of the wealth of the median white family.

Next, we turn to mean wealth.

At its peak in 2007, mean white wealth was over $725k while mean hispanic wealth was around $225k and mean black wealth was $140k.

Measured at the mean, hispanic and black wealth is somewhat closer to white wealth, but still much lower. On the average year between 1989 and 2010, mean black wealth was 18.2 percent of mean white wealth and mean hispanic wealth was 23.6 percent of mean white wealth.

Not that I am saying anything new here, but the wealth gap has been persistent across the last couple decades (and before then) and will continue to be for the foreseeable future unless policy changes. That will mean less economic stability and security for blacks and hispanics as well as less economic and political power.