Posted on December 2, 2020

As White Americans Die, Racial Inequality in the US May Get Much Worse

Benjamin Waddell, The Globe Post, November 30, 2020

On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States. In defeating President Donald Trump, Biden promised to heal a divided nation.

In his victory speech, the president-elect said, “I sought this office to restore the soul of America. To rebuild the backbone of the nation — the middle class.”

Biden’s middle-class vision for the US is possible, but without aggressive investments in education, healthcare, and well-paying jobs, America’s future may well look more like post-apartheid South Africa than the highly developed country it purports to be.


The US is quickly becoming a minority-majority nation. In 1990, 76 percent of the population identified as non-Hispanic white, but by 2018, that number had dropped to 60 percent. And in urban cities, where most young people live, only 44 percent of inhabitants identify as non-Hispanic white.

The nation’s demographic shift may signal a new dawn. As white Americans age and pass away, we should expect minority populations to become more involved in politics, middle-class professions, and political decision making. {snip}

Still, demographic dominance does not necessarily equate to more equality. For example, in the world’s most unequal country, South Africa, white citizens account for just 9 percent of the population but control nearly 70 percent of the wealth, including 72 percent of the country’s land.

In the US, the vast majority of wealth is also concentrated in the hands of white people. And in coming decades, barring policies designed to redistribute wealth, the situation stands to get much worse as aging white Americans begin leaving their estates to fewer and fewer heirs.


Given these trends, in a country where wealth and power go hand in hand, a more diverse society may also come with a much greater concentration of financial authority in the hands of fewer and fewer white Americans.


The growth of racial inequality, coupled with a wave of conservative renewal, has set the United States on a dangerous and regressive path that threatens our nation’s democratic norms and values. Few events are as reflective of this point as the tumultuous and extremely divisive 2020 presidential election.

So where do we go from here?

The only way to avoid transforming into a plutocracy defined by hyper-racial inequality — à la South Africa — is to invest in the social mobility of minorities now. To do this, we must progressively raise taxes on the wealthy and immediately invest in public education, healthcare, and living wages for all Americans.