A new study out today from Brandeis University’s Institute for Assets and Social Policy (IASP) shows that the wealth gap between black and white Americans has roughly tripled since the 1980s. Let that sink in for a moment. In 1984, the gap in median wealth between black and white Americans amounted to roughly $85,000. (Remember that wealth is a measure of everything a person owns, minus what they owe. This figure represents the gap, rather than total holdings of either group.) By 2009, the black-white wealth gap had soared to $236,500. To put that in perspective, the median price of a house in 2009 was $216,700, according to Census figures.
As Michael Fletcher writes for the Washington Post, we’ve seen important progress toward racial equality over the past quarter century or so: more black Americans are graduating from college and entering into positions of public office, for example. But despite these markers of progress in place, the racial wealth gap is persistent and widening.
As the Wall Street Journal explains, the IASP study makes an important contribution to answering why this is so. By studying a large set of households over a 25 year period, IASP researchers can show which factors contribute most to the gap.