Closing the Racial Wealth Gap – The New York Times

EVA Issues in the News

Courtney E. Martin of The New York Times discusses the racial wealth gap in the United States in this New York Times post originally published on April 23, 2019. Martin details our country’s growing economic divide, discussing how the burden of poverty falls heaviest on people of color, and points to systemic factors that continue to hinder racial and economic equity and justice. Read the following excerpt and click through to the full article to learn more.


In her 2018 book, “Give People Money,” the journalist Annie Lowrey delivered a stinging criticism of the ways in which the United States has essentially won the race to the bottom when it comes to distribution of wealth:

“We tolerate levels of poverty that are grotesque and entirely unique among developed nations.”

She was speaking not just about cold hard cash and other forms of wealth, but also about the way race still shapes who is preposterously rich and who remains predictably poor.

It’s likely that you’ve seen the statistics: The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median African-American family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. And things are getting worse, not better: The proportion of black families with zero or negative wealth rose by 8.5 percent to 37 percent between 1983 and 2016.

Native American median household income is similar to that of black households. Nearly 34 percent of Native American children live in poverty (in contrast to 10 percent of white children), according to the most recent publicly available data.

The economic precariousness among Americans has become notoriously widespread, but it’s the worst for African-Americans without a high school diploma, over half of whom couldn’t handle an unexpected expense as low as $400 with their current income.

But the statistics only tell the surface story. There is real psychological, social and even moral side effects of this enduring gap. Milicent Johnson, the San Francisco planning commissioner who has led many efforts to address economic inequality, describes the daily toll that the racial wealth gap has had in her own life. Even as she has transcended the poverty of her childhood, the weight remains: “The feeling that the bottom could always drop out of your financial life, and the ever-present knowledge that you’re likely not in the same boat as your white peers, even if you appear to have the same level of professional success, takes a daily toll.”

Read the full article at The New York Times.


EVA Issues in the News highlights news items focusing on key issues for poor and low-income families, from fair work and access to health care to family economic security, criminal justice reform, voting rights, and more.

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