By Fenaba R. Addo, Ph.D. and Keith Beverly, CFA, CFP, MBA, Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity and GRID 202 Partners
The typical Black American household is not wealthy. According to a national survey of U.S. households, Black households hold approximately a tenth of the wealth of White households. In 2019, the median wealth of a Black household was $24,100, and 19.7 percent of Black households have zero or negative net worth (difference in total value of one’s assets and one’s liabilities, or debts). It is therefore not surprising that most scholarly focus has been on the wealth -poor with policy-based solutions directed at financial education and asset building (e.g. building savings, homeownership, small business ownership). A salient point in this focus: If you are poor, you must educate yourself with the proper financial tools to make the right financial decisions. Yet, wealthy or financially secure people often hire trained professionals to make the right decisions for them. It is often believed, perhaps even commonly, that Black households can either educate, save, or plan their way to closing the wealth gap. Given that White wealth has also helped to establish and maintain a system of racial status and hierarchy in America, Black wealth, which comprises about 3 percent of the total wealth in the U.S., has little or no effect on the current structure.
Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity Duke University