The Racial Retirement Gap in 7 Facts

cartoon depiction of person standing on top of a tall podium with a much smaller podium and person right beside it
By Andy Markowitz

Building a financially secure retirement is an uphill climb for many Americans, but it’s especially steep if you are Black.

The numbers paint a stark picture. Black workers ages 51 to 64 are the least likely among all racial and ethnic groups to have a retirement account, according to a July 2023 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. When they do have one, their median balance is far below that of similarly aged white adults across all income levels.

The 2-to-1 unemployment disparity is “one of the most durable and defining features of the U.S. labor market,” economists Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute and William Darity of Duke University wrote in a March 2022 paper on inequality in employment. It endures through good economic times and bad, they found, and is relatively constant across age, gender, region and education level.