As inflation soars, Black Americans bear the brunt of rising grocery, gas and housing prices

professional headshot of Dr. William Darity

By Nicquel Terry Ellis June 28, 2022

Krista Johnson gets anxious when she thinks about the rising cost of gas, food and housing as she prepares to give birth to her daughter, who is due in August.

Johnson said she’s been trying to save money by cooking more at home and packing her husband’s lunches instead of eating out at restaurants. The metro Atlanta couple postponed buying a house after watching home prices soar in the last year. Johnson, an elementary school teacher, is also concerned about being able to afford child care which is getting more expensive nationwide.
“I’m just worried about quality of life,” said Johnson, 33. “You already have nerves about being a new parent. And then you have the whole economic downturn possibly coming and it can create some anxiety.”
Like many Black families, Johnson and her husband are bearing the brunt of inflation — with prices rising to the highest rates the US has seen in more than 40 years. Researchers say Black families will suffer the worst effects of rising inflation because they lag behind their White counterparts in income, wealth, financial savings and home ownership.
The disparity leaves many Black Americans without the funds to help offset the rising consumer prices and puts greater pressure on their monthly income, economists say. Some economists fear that if lawmakers don’t act soon to combat inflation, Black families may be forced to go without necessities as the threat of another recession looms.
“It’s going to be extremely devastating,” said William Darity Jr., professor of public policy, African American studies and economics at Duke University. “People will have to make very, very hard decisions about whether or not to purchase medicines or buy food or forgo payment of their utilities. It will have harsh effects on people’s well-being.”
Darity said the nation’s wealth gap has made is difficult for Black families to maintain financial savings or transfer wealth through generations like many White families have been able to do. He said racist policies such as redlining and depriving former slaves of land promised to them have historically set Black Americans behind.
According to the Brookings Institute, the median wealth of a White household is $188,200 which is 7.8 times more than the average Black household at $24,100. In 2019, the home ownership rate for White Americans was about 73% compared to 42% for Black Americans.
Darity is urging lawmakers to implement a federal job guarantee which would provide a job with dignified wages and safe working conditions to every adult who seeks employment. This would help Black families stay afloat, Darity said.