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,