White People 150% Wealthier Than Everyone Else Compared to 4 Years Ago


A report by the Urban Institute found that in wake of the recession, the wealth gap between white people and people of color has increased by 150%. The study measured wealth, not income. While the income gap between non-Hispanic whites and people of color has remained at a 2:1 ratio for the past 30 years, the measure of wealth, meaning the measure of total assets such as savings and real estate minus total debts, has shifted such that whites are now, on average, six times as wealthy as people of color. Four years ago, they were four times as wealthy.

The widening of this gap in wake of the housing recession is likely a result of predatory home foreclosure and lending practices by big banks, which tended to target black and Latino people. It also isn't helped by shrinking of the public sector, which employs one out of five African-Americans. Government intervention to hold banks accountable for these irresponsible loan procedures, along with preservation of public sector jobs, could have helped prevent the increase in wealth inequality over the past four years.

It also calls into question how we hold President Obama accountable for wealth inequality. Perhaps his intervention (or rather, as much as he may have been able to intervene) would have lessened the blow of the recession on racial wealth inequality. However, Obama's opponents harshly police him for regulation and wasteful government spending to a greater extreme than is customary. It has been demonstrated that some Tea Party opposition to Obama is highly racialized (hello monkey slogans and voodoo caricatures!), as is some of the anxiety over wasteful government spending.

Racism certainly functions in such a way as to put people of color at a disadvantage in the U.S. economy. The 2:1 income ratio, higher black unemployment rate, and ever-widening wealth gap illustrate this plainly. But maybe President Obama's lack of intervention over the past four years had to do with another insidious type of racism: one that holds him accountable for too much while allowing him to take too little action.