Most of us have already known about the wealth gap along racial and gender lines, but now a very disturbing new study actually puts a bright spotlight on the problem. The new report by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, formerly the National Economic Development and Law Center (NEDLC) called Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and America’s Future shows that while women of all races earn less income and have less wealth than their male counterparts, black women are severely at a disadvantage.
Wealth is generally determined by one’s total assets minus debts. According to the report, single, middle age white women have a median wealth of $42,600, which is still about 60 percent of single white men; the median wealth for single black women is only $5. Married white women have a median wealth of $167,500, but married black women have a median worth of $31,500.
I’m not surprised by these findings. While the economic disparities are complex, there are some clear reasons for the gap. Black women are more likely to be in careers that that pay less and offer little to no health insurance or retirement plans, which contribute to their debt problems. Over 40 percent of black women are single, making us the financial backbones for our families.
The study was conducted before the current recession, but clearly the decade long sub-prime loan crisis has stretched the wallets of many black women. In addition, jobless rates for both black women and men are nearly double the national unemployment average.
If this report doesn’t prove that America is nowhere close to being “post racial,” then I don’t know what will. President Obama has said he wants to deal with the social ills affecting the black community without actually framing them as black problems. For the last year, he has promoted the idea that the stimulus plan will save Americans of all racial backgrounds.
Nonetheless, a report from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity says just the opposite, stating that the “stimulus did not go far enough in terms of marginalized communities, and it lacked transparency and accountability in regard to racial equity.” In addition, the report states that the stimulus has not properly established an infrastructure that would help enable blacks to find jobs.
However, some black leaders have recently met with the president about the need to have a jobs bill for African-Americans. After reading these studies, I am convinced that in order to close the wealth gap, there need to be policies that not only specifically address these problems by race, but also by gender.
There seems to be no end in sight for this recession, but if there was more focus on better supporting marginalized groups, it would be beneficial for putting the country back on the right track.