Personal Finance: Race and the recession

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 9:59 AM

Blacks are not investing at the same rate as whites. That's one of the disparities found in a poll conducted by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Only one in four African Americans and one in six Hispanics reported owning stocks, bonds or mutual funds, the poll found. Only 46 percent of blacks and 32 percent of Hispanics said they had an individual retirement account or any similar retirement arrangement.

Compare these findings to what the poll showed about whites' investing habits. Half of whites said they had stocks, bonds or mutual funds, and two in three said they had IRAs, 401(k)s or similar holdings.

As the Post's Michael A. Fletcher reports: "Not only are African Americans and Hispanics less likely than whites to own retirement accounts or investment securities, they also are far less likely to own homes, which remains the largest engine of wealth creation for most Americans."

Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research, calls the findings troubling.

"The fact that black and Hispanic workers are less likely to have meaningful [retirement account] balances is a worrisome development. If the retirement age goes from 67 to 69, the practical effect will be bigger reductions for people who claim it at 62. Low-skill workers, who are already paid less, would just get less from the program."

I want to stop right here and ask a question that was recently asked of me. Is it still relevant to compare what blacks and Hispanics have to what whites have? Without the vitriol, let's talk about this. Send your comments to Put "Race and the Recession" in the subject line.

More information about the poll as well as related stories and multimedia can be found at the Post's Behind the Headlines page.

Here are some highlights of the Post's and its partner's coverage on this topic:

--Post writers Michael A. Fletcher and Jon Cohen report on the hopefulness of minorities even though they were hardest by the recession.'s Sheree Crute reports on the recession's effect on African American children.

--Watch this video about how many Americans are recovering from their financial woes.

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