How do we close a racial wealth gap that is so appalling and has been with us for so long? In 2016, the median family wealth by race for a White family in America was $171,000, while for a Black family it was only $17,600. So, according to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, before the pandemic, the median White household had a net worth ten times that of a median Black household. “If current economic trends continue, the average Black household will need 228 years to accumulate as much wealth as their White counterparts hold today,” notes Joshua Holland in The Nation. “For the average Latino family,” he adds, laconically, “it will take 84 years.” These thought-provoking numbers should be food for thought.
COVID changed everything. Clearly the structural barriers to Black wealth in the United States over the last few centuries have been massive. But the COVID epidemic worsened our already profound racial inequalities, especially when it comes to home ownership. The national Black homeownership rate is at 42%, essentially as low as it was in 1970, which is an amazing number that does not get reported on nearly enough. “The gap in homeownership rates between Black and White Americans grew to over 30% last year — which is higher than what it was in 1960, when racial discrimination in housing was legal,” wrote Jason Stauffer, in Time.