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New Report Exposes Severity of Racial Wealth Gap Between Black and White Americans

A report released today from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, “Still Running Up the Down Escalator: How Narratives Shape our Understanding of Racial Wealth Inequality,” tracks how harmful narratives that perpetuate a “bootstraps” mentality while ignoring structural barriers have fueled public policy that leaves Black Americans out of opportunities for wealth building and limits public understanding of systemic disparities. Authors Natasha Hicks, Fenaba Addo, Anne Price, and William Darity Jr. also set forward several policies to close the wealth gap between Black and White Americans and create an economy that works for all.

“We often talk about the results of inequitable policies, but we rarely address the underlying belief systems that fuel them,” said Insight Center President and report Co-author Anne Price. “To make progress on advancing economic equity we must interrogate and dismantle harmful narratives, and this paper sets forward the framework for doing exactly that.”

The research outlines how narratives steeped in anti-blackness prevent equity in five key areas: education, homeownership, entrepreneurship, income, and family structure. Specifically, Black individuals do not experience the same benefits accrued through education or homeownership as their White peers, and they face significant, systemic hurdles in establishing businesses and finding well-paying jobs. Among the disparities outlined in the report:

  • Despite Black women having higher credit scores, they are 256 percent more likely to receive a subprime mortgage than a White man with the same financial profile.
  • Black households with a college degree hold $22,000 less wealth than White households without a high school diploma, and Black households with advanced degrees hold about half the wealth of White households with a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Getting married increased White wealth by more than $75,000 but did nothing to increase wealth among Black households.

“Exactly fifty years ago the sociologist William Ryan labeled a process of vilifying communities locked into inferior status, by arguing that their own dysfunctional behaviors led to their condition, ‘blaming the victim.’ Our new report confronts the victim blaming narratives with hard evidence that, forcefully, demonstrates their inaccuracy,” said Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity Founding Director and report Co-author William Darity, Jr.

The full paper can be found here.


CONTACT: Saadia McConville

The Insight Center drives structural, transformative change to build economic inclusion and racial equity for people of color, women, immigrants and marginalized families in the U.S. through three pillars of work: Research and advocacy, narrative change and thought leadership.

The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity is a scholarly collaborative that studies the causes and consequences of inequality and develops remedies for these disparities and their adverse effects.