The long road to racial wealth equity

Twelve times. That's how much higher the wealth of white families is compared to black families. Another startling stat – at the current rate of progress, it will take until 2097 for Latinx families to reach wealth parity with white families.

Wealth is savings in the bank – money owned – home equity, a retirement account, a small business minus money owed – debts like student loans or a mortgage. But looking beyond the balance sheet, wealth represents stability and security. It allows families to weather an unexpected medical bill or lost job. For the majority of adults that can no longer depend on a pension, wealth makes it possible to retire comfortably.

Policies and practices have kept people of color from achieving economic well-being. Homeownership is the largest item in families' wealth portfolio, yet de jure (by law) and de facto (by practice) segregation made building home equity next to impossible for people of color. A college education can connect individuals to high-wage jobs with benefits like health care, pensions, and paid leave, but segregated K-12 schools serving students of color are less likely to offer AP and honors classes and more likely to suspend and expel students. And the tax code has contributed as well, conferring more tax benefits to higher earners (e.g. mortgage interest deduction, tax-deferred retirement accounts) and allowing them to pass that wealth on to their children.

A conversation about the racial wealth gap will be a centerpiece of the 2017 Midwest Asset Building Conference. We are aware of the problems; it is time to work toward solutions. Housing, education, credit access, employment, and tax policies all require our attention. With a unified voice, we can advocate for changes that will address racial injustice and move toward shared prosperity.