Wealth concentration in the United States — which is intensifying across the board — has impacted minority groups the hardest, reports Forbes. That is the thesis of a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C.
Utilizing data from the Federal Reserve, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Forbes rich lists, among other sources, the institute found that the 400 richest Americans hold more wealth than “all Black households, plus a quarter of Latino households [combined].” Separately, the study noted, “Between 1983 and 2016, the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half after adjusting for inflation, compared to a 33 percent increase for the median White household.”
At present, the median Black family has assets of $3,600, roughly 1/4oth that of the median White household, the institute reports. Among the study’s other striking conclusions: Black families are about 20 times more likely to have zero or negative assets (indebted) than they are to be worth $1 million or more; Latino households are 14 times more likely to have zero or negative assets than they are to be millionaires; meanwhile, White households are equally likely to fall into either category.
The wealth of the median Latino family rose 54 percent between 1983 and 2016, to $6,600. Still, the wealth of typical Latino household is 1/22nd that of the median White household. “Wealth is where the past shows up in the present. From slavery to Jim Crow, to redlining, to mass incarceration, the division of assets on the basis of race has been explicit public policy for centuries,” says Josh Hoxie, one of the study’s co-authors.
Some billionaires, including Bill Gates, have acknowledged the significance of wealth and income inequality. “High levels of inequality are a problem — messing up economic incentives, tilting democracies in favor of powerful interests, and undercutting the ideal that all people are created equal,” Gates wrote in a 2014 blog post. His wife, Melinda, echoed the sentiment in their foundation’s 2018 annual letter: “It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little. And it’s not fair that our wealth opens doors that are closed to most people.”