Income inequality between races

By Bo Liu

African Americans systematically have less wealth than whites. Tables 1 and 2 summarize several wealth measures by race including median wealth, average wealth, and the share of households with no or negative wealth. The median black wealth in 2016 amounted to $13,460—less than 10 percent of the $142,180 median white wealth. (see Table 1) The average black wealth was 11 percent that of whites, and slightly more than one-quarter of blacks had no or negative wealth, compared with only a little more than 10 percent of whites. (see Table 2)

The black-white wealth gap has persisted for decades. As shown in Table 1, the median wealth for black non-retirees over the age of 25 has never amounted to more than 19 percent of the median wealth of similarly situated whites since 1989. Additionally, the ratio of average black wealth to average white wealth never exceeded 21.6 percent in 1992. Roughly speaking, the best-case scenario for the past 30 years occurred when blacks had about one-sixth the median wealth of whites in 1998.
These above two tables along with table interpretation somewhat reflects the income and wealth inequality as one form of systemic injustice among African-American. wealth in this country is unequally distributed by race—and particularly between white and black households. African American families have a fraction of the wealth of white families, leaving them more economically insecure and with far fewer opportunities for economic mobility. As this table shows, even after considering positive factors such as increased education levels, African Americans have less wealth than whites. Less wealth translates into fewer opportunities for upward mobility and is compounded by lower income levels and fewer chances to build wealth or pass accumulated wealth down to future generations.

Now, the historical circumstances leading to the sharp systemic wealth and income inequality between white people and black people originated from white wealth accumulated from the trading and enslavement of Africans, and from the taking of black-owned property to pass down to white children and grandchildren. Government policies such as racial housing covenants, redlining, financial handouts for white war veterans, and highway expansions provided additional wealth expansion for white families while providing net-zero wealth opportunities for African Americans.

Hanks, Angela, et al. “Systematic Inequality.” Center for American Progress,

6 thoughts on “Income inequality between races

  1. The topic of wealth between African Americans and white people living in America is an important and not well-known topic among the general public. When people think of African Americans as still being systemically discriminated against, an immediate thought is that “Jim Crow laws and slavery is over, so whatever discrimination African Americans go through cannot be that big of a deal”. However, when one compares, especially, the difference between wealth and income and how large of a disparity exists between African Americans and Whites, then it becomes clear that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done systematically to ensure equity among all races in the U.S.

  2. Hi Bo, the two charts you provided are really informative and I am quite surprised by how large the black-white wealth gap is. As you mentioned, two of the reasons that the whites are typically wealthier than the blacks are historical circumstances as well as unequal Government policies toward the different races. I think another factor that contributes to such a huge gap can be that racial discrimination is persistent in the workplace although it is illegal. A study shows that black employees, especially black women, are facing huge disadvantages at work that they are less likely to be promoted or supported by their managers. According to the study, Black women receive 39% less pay than white men and 21% less than white women. That is, the disparity and injustice on job payment not only occurs between races but also between gender, which are two crucial social problems that need to be addressed and solved.

  3. Great entry, Bo! Usually, when I read about income inequality, it refers to the differences between sexes. I don’t believe I have ever seen these statistics before and this is unbelievable. As you stated, the reduced incomes of African-American families is more than just less money. Financial insecurities translates into worse health as well as less educational and social opportunities for themselves and future generations.

  4. I thought this was a great topic to do an injustice entry on because generally when people think about differences in African Americans and white Americans they immediately think about discrimination, slavery, racism, etc. But what we often times don’t think about the gigantic difference in overall wealth between the two parties, your post shows just what a gigantic difference there still is when it comes to the differences between African Americans and White Americans systematically in the United States.

  5. Hi Bo! Great post, I feel like this the gaps between wages of African Americans and whites is not talked about enough. This is a significant injustice that needs to be fixed. In my sociology class, we read an article that mentioned that people often don’t get a call back based on their names also. If you have a more black or ethnic name, you are less likely to get a callback. You stated one reason that the whites are typically wealthier than the blacks are unequal Government policies toward the different races. These policies should be changed to lessen the differences between races.

  6. Hi Bo,
    I like your post. Before reading your post, I never thought that the wealth and income gap between white and Black or African American people was so big, and this situation even got worse after 1998. The gap was still very huge in 2016, so people definitely need to do something to improve those black or African American’s living circumstance. I hope it will be better in the future.

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