Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Race-And-Gender Wealth Gap

You may have seen references to a study which found the average net worth of African-American single women to be about five bucks. That net worth refers to wealth, not income, and it is found by calculating the value of all assets a person has and then by deducting the value of all the debt the person has.

The study is available here (a pdf), and well worth reading through.* What you will find is a wealth gap between men and women in all racial/ethnic groups until some time after age fifty when the gap narrows or disappears or even reverses. I suspect the change around the age fifty has to do with inheriting wealth from one's own parents.

But this change can only happen if the person's own parents had accumulated wealth. That was much easier for whites than for African-Americans, largely due to overt racial discrimination in the past. That is one reason for the much greater race gap than gender gap.

The race gap in wealth is not all that is affecting African-American single women. If it was, African-American single men should have the same average wealth levels. But they have higher wealth levels. Thus, African-American women are hit twice.
*One caveat: I'm not sure about the sample sizes for, say, African-American single women. If they are small the results should be viewed as preliminary and the study as a pilot project.