Study: Wealth gap wider for minorities
October 17, 2004
WASHINGTON – The enormous wealth gap between white families and blacks and Hispanics grew larger after the most recent recession, a private analysis of government data finds.
White households had a median net worth of greater than $88,000 in 2002, 11 times more than Hispanics and more than 14 times that of blacks, the Pew Hispanic Center said in a study being released Monday.
Blacks were slowest to emerge from the economic downturn that started in 2000 and ended in late 2001, the report found.
Net worth accounts for the values of items such as a home and car, checking and savings accounts, and stocks, minus debts such as mortgage, car loans and credit card bills.
Greater wealth means a greater ability to weather a job loss, emergency home repairs, illness and other unexpected costs, as well as being able to save for retirement or a child’s college tuition.
According to the group’s analysis of Census Bureau data, nearly one-third of black families and 26 percent of Hispanic families were in debt or had no net assets, compared with 11 percent of white families.
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“Wealth is a measure of cumulative advantage or disadvantage,” said Roderick Harrison, a researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank that focuses on black issues. “The fact that black and Hispanic wealth is a fraction of white wealth also reflects a history of discrimination.”
Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, said the accumulation of wealth allows low-income families to rise into the middle class and “have some kind of assets beyond next week’s paychecks.”
“Having more assets enabled whites to ride out the jobless recovery better,” he said.
After accounting for inflation, net worth for white households increased 17 percent between 1996 and 2002 and rose for Hispanic homes by 14 percent to about $7,900. It decreased for blacks by 16 percent, to roughly $6,000.