Inequalities in Education Continue to Fuel Wealth Gap in U.S.

A recent report titled “The Racial Wealth Gap” examined, in conjunction with other factors, the role education plays in the persistent wealth gap between minorities and their White counterparts in this country.

The authors noted that, “despite rising college attendance rates among Black and Latino households, barriers to completing a degree have actually widened the college attainment gap between Whites and people of color over the past decade.” Cost is one of the largest barriers driving the gap, which also has contributed to a significantly lower return on the degree investment for people of color, who are often laden with significantly more debt following graduation.

“One of the biggest problems with wealth formation is that, because of starting off at a disadvantage in terms of wealth, people of color are coming out of college with more debt,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, a senior policy analyst with Demos, the group that co-published the report with Brandeis University’s Institutes for Assets and Social Policy.

Dr. Howard Fuller, a distinguished professor of education and the founder/director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, recalled a student who made it to college despite an overwhelming belief by many who had encountered him in K-12 that he wouldn’t ever go to college, was doing exceptionally well at the institution, but who “is now back home because of $800, or something like that.”