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Racial Equity Knowledge Center

Raising awareness about funding for racial equity efforts.

The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap

by Amy Traub; Laura Sullivan; Tatjana Meschede; Tom Shapiro

Feb 6, 2017

The racial wealth gap matters because of the central role wealth plays in enabling families to both handle current financial challenges and make investments in their future. Families that have accumulated some wealth are better equipped to manage unanticipated expenses like an emergency medical bill, or disruptions in household income such as a layoff, without falling into debt or poverty. Over the longer term, wealth can expand the prospects of the next generation, helping to pay for college, provide a down payment for a first home, or capitalize a new business. As long as a substantial racial wealth gap persists, white households will continue to enjoy greater advantages than their black and Latino neighbors in meeting the financial challenges of everyday life and will be able to make greater investments in their children, passing economic advantages on. We can only create a more equitable future by confronting the racial wealth gap and the public policies that continue to fuel and exacerbate it. 


This report analyzes data on white, black, and Latino households. The terms black and white are used to refer to the representative respondents of a household who identified as non-Latino black or white in the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).2 Latinos include everyone who identified as Hispanic or Latino and may be of any race.


Throughout this report, we use the term "racial wealth gap" to refer to the absolute differences in wealth (assets minus debt) between the median black and white households as well as between the median Latino and white households. All dollar figures are in 2013 dollars.