Worsening Wealth Inequality by Race

Tami Luhby, June 21, 2012

White Americans have 22 times more wealth than blacks—a gap that nearly doubled during the Great Recession.

The median household net worth for whites was $110,729 in 2010, versus $4,995 for blacks, according to recently released Census Bureau figures.

The difference is similarly notable when it comes to Hispanics, who had a median household net worth of $7,424. The ratio between white and Hispanic wealth expanded to 15 to 1.

The gap between the races widened considerably during the recent economic downturn, which whites weathered better than blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

The latter three groups saw their median household net worth fall by roughly 60% between 2005 and 2010, while the median net worth for white households slipped only 23%.

This allowed whites to leap ahead of Asians as the race with the highest median household net worth.


The Great Recession exacerbated the problem. In 2005, the net worth difference wasn’t quite as stark. Whites had 12 times more wealth than blacks and 8 times more than Hispanics.

The main reason blacks and Hispanics did not fare as well during the economic downturn is that home equity makes up more of their wealth than it does for whites. The housing bubble that preceded the collapse pushed up homeownership rates among blacks and Hispanics, who relied more heavily on high-cost subprime loans to finance their purchases.

As a result, the implosion of the real estate market had a more devastating impact on black and Hispanic communities.

Asians, meanwhile, are more concentrated on the West Coast, which was hit harder by the mortgage meltdown. And the arrival of new Asian immigrants in the last decade contributed to the decline in overall wealth, according to Rakesh Kochhar, co-author of the Pew Research Center report on wealth.


Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.