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Race, Wealth, and Intergenerational Poverty

Jun 10, 2011 | By Page May

Article: There will never be a post-racial America if the wealth gap persists.

From The American Prospect-

“Since the election of Barack Obama, a growing belief has emerged that race is no longer a defining feature of one’s life chances. But the extraordinary overlap between wealth and race puts a lie to the notion that America is now in a post-racial era. The smallest racial wealth gap exists for families in the third quartile of the income distribution where the typical black family has only 38 percent of the wealth of the typical white family. In the bottom income quartile—the group containing the working poor—a black family has a startlingly low 2 percent of the wealth of the typical white family.

Given the importance of intergenerational transfers of wealth and past and present barriers preventing black wealth accumulation, private action and market forces alone cannot close an unjust racial wealth gap—public-sector intervention is necessary…However, wealth, given the racial disparity of its distribution, can be an effective non-race-based instrument to eliminate racial inequality. We could shift from an income-based to a wealth-based test for transfer programs. Policy eligibility based on net worth below the national median would qualify a large proportion of black households…. These changes in eligibility should be coupled with policies to promote asset building.”

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