Wealth gap leaves black and Hispanic households far behind

Virtually no progress has been made since the recession ended in closing the large wealth gap along racial and ethnic lines, according to a new analysis of census data.

The average African American household owns just 6 cents for every $1 of wealth held by the typical white household. For Latinos, the average figure is 7 cents. That represents an increase of 1 cent for each group in the years between 2009 and 2011.

The analysis, based on 2011 data collected by the Census Bureau, was done by the Center for Global Policy Solutions, which describes itself as a social change nonprofit based in the District.

The report, called “Beyond Broke: Why Closing the Racial Wealth Gap is a Priority for National Economic Security,” said the discrepancy was particularly striking in the amount of cash people have on hand. Two in three African Americans and seven in 10 Latinos do not have enough money to cover three months of living expenses. Only one in three whites are similarly “liquid asset poor,” the report said.

African Americans and Latinos are much more likely than whites to have no assets whatsoever and zero to negative net worth, according to the report. A majority of those who said they had assets listed only a checking account as an asset they could quickly convert into cash if necessary. Half or more of white and Asian households own four or more tangible assets, compared with only one in five African American and Hispanic households.

Minorities are also more likely to have their house as their main asset, and the steep declines in housing prices and equity during the recession hit minorities particularly hard. Hispanic households experienced the largest fall in their net worth, the report said.

Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department.
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