The researchers of the Cook Center are documenting the magnitude of racial and ethnic disparities in wealth in the United States, particularly in the aftermath the Great Recession.

The 2018 report from the Center, What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap, outlines many of these present disparities: Black Americans, who constitute roughly thirteen percent of the country, possess less than three percent of the nation’s wealth. While the median white household living at the poverty line has $18,000 in wealth, the corresponding black household typically has nothing. Conversely, white households account for a whopping ninety-six percent of the nation’s wealthiest; black households make up just two percent of this elite club. These persistent disparities, along with many others the Cook Center has uncovered in recent years, provide an impetus and justification for the continued efforts of the Center’s researchers in combating these inequities.

Among other goals, they work to:

  • Identify sources of unequal wealth accumulation across populations, using data from sources such as the Panel Study of Income Dynamics;
  • Resolve whether differences in net worth are due primarily to differences in behavior (savings and portfolio management), differences in income, or differences in patterns of inheritance;
  • Establish the most effective means of addressing intergroup inequality in wealth;
  • And assess and compare the effectiveness of financial literacy programs, individual development accounts, child trust accounts, and community wide asset-building initiatives.