A $95,000 question: why are whites five times richer than blacks in the US?

African American child studying

The answer comes buried at the end of the piece:

Although many black families have moved up to better-paying jobs, they begin with fewer assets, such as inheritance, on which to build wealth. They are also more likely to have gone into debt to pay for university loans.

“African-Americans, before the 1960s, first by law and then by custom, were not really allowed to own businesses. They had very little access to credit. There was a very low artificial ceiling on the wealth that could be accumulated. Hence there was very little, if anything, that could be passed along to help their children get to college, to help their children buy their first homes, or as an inheritance when they die,” said Shapiro.

Since the 1980s, US administrations have also geared the tax system to the advantage of the better off. Taxes on unearned income, such as shares and inheritance, fell sharply and are much lower than taxes on pay.

Guardian: A $95,000 question: why are whites five times richer than blacks in the US?

(via Justin Boland)


  1. Proof of the limitations of identity politics. The cultivation of a black middle class has done nothing more than elevate a thin layer of the black community into privileged positions.

    There are a few reasons why the disparity exists:

    1) The overwhelming majority of the “big bourgeoisie” (i.e. top 100-500 families) are white.
    2) Blacks were traditionally barred from skilled trades, meaning that people like my dad (skilled union laborers raking in decent pay, with pension, good health care, etc.) are far rarer among the working class.
    3) One third of all blacks in the criminal justice system / far greater rates of unemployment among blacks. Pretty much the same thing here, as criminality is largely a function of poverty.

  2. Your points 2 and 3 would seem to contradict your statement that this is proof of the limitations of identity politics. I think it’s proof the *necessity* of identity politics.

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