Excerpted From: Regina S. Baker and Fenaba R. Addo, Barriers to Racial Wealth Equality, 48 Human Rights 2 (2023) (Full Document)


BakerAddoIn the United States, racial wealth inequality, particularly the Black-white wealth gap, is massive. In 2019, the median wealth for white households was $188,200, compared to $24,100 and $36,100 for Black and Hispanic households, respectively (Bhutta et al., 2020). To better understand the ongoing persistence of this racial wealth inequality, we outline several historical and contemporary mechanisms that have predominantly supported wealth accumulation for white Americans and/or impeded or exploited wealth opportunities for Black Americans.

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Historical barriers helped shape wealth trajectories and unleveled foundations for wealth accumulation, while contemporary barriers ensure that racial wealth gaps persist. To narrow these disparities, efforts must be made to help compensate for generations of lost wealth while simultaneously removing barriers across contemporary institutions, such as housing, education, and the labor market.

Regina S. Baker is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fenaba R. Addo is an associate professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.