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dkf

(37,305 posts)
Fri Mar 1, 2013, 07:27 AM Mar 2013

A new explanation for the racial wealth gap

The wealth gap between black and white families is one of the most striking facts of American life: As of 2009, the median wealth of white households was $113,149; for black households, it was $5,677. And more to the point, the wealth gap persists even when you compare households with similar annual incomes.

Sociologists cite a number of factors to explain why. One is that historical patterns of discrimination have prevented wealth from accumulating in black families over the generations. Another is that, all else being equal, black families tend to live in lower income neighborhoods where home values—a principle source of wealth—don’t appreciate as quickly.

Princeton graduate student Rourke O’Brien thinks he’s found another reason. In a paper published last month, he argues that middle and upper-income black families don’t accumulate wealth as quickly because rather than investing their money, they give more of it to poor friends and relatives.

This idea has been around for awhile, but O’Brien’s paper is one of the first to test it quantitatively. Middle-income blacks are more than twice as likely as middle-income whites to have a poor sibling and more than four times as likely to have parents below the poverty line. And because of these relationships, they’re called upon more often to provide financial assistance.

This chart from O’Brien’s paper shows the magnitude of the difference. Black families earning more than $100,000 a year are about twice as likely to have given money to friends and family compared to white families.

- See more at: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2013/01/a_new_explanati.html#sthash.VifJKl6i.dpuf

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