President Trump took the microphone at an awards ceremony for Minority Enterprise Development Week to highlight his commitment to helping minorities and urban residents enjoy the economic prosperity he promised on the campaign trail.
“Minority businesses employ 8 million people and generate more than $1 trillion in annual economic output,” he said Tuesday.
“My administration is deeply committed to empowering minority business owners. We're working to lift government barriers so that you can thrive, prosper and grow,” Trump added. “And speaking of growing, our stock market just hit another record high. It's the highest it's ever been in history by far.”
Trump is right. The stock market is doing very well. But many — if not most — people of color in the United States aren't benefiting from what Trump points to as proof of a thriving economy.
A little less than half of the country — 46 percent — owns stock, either through retirement accounts and other funds or directly. And most of those people are not minorities.
The Washington Post's Tracy Jan wrote about this earlier this month in a piece about the wealth gap between white and minority families:
White families are twice as likely as black and Hispanic families to own stocks or mutual funds. Sixty percent of white families invest in the stock market, while less than one-third of black and Hispanic families have any exposure to the stock market, according to Fed data.
Among American households invested in the market, the median value of white-owned investments rose to $50,000 in 2016, indicating a recovery from the Great Recession. The median value of black-owned and Hispanic-owned investments also rose but remained below 2007 values, at about $12,000. All numbers have been adjusted for inflation.
Even among those who own stocks, regardless of race, there's great inequality preventing most Americans from experiencing the prosperity Trump described.
When it comes to the value of those stocks, the top 10 percent of Americans hold four times as much as the bottom 90 percent. The top 1 percent alone holds twice as much value as the bottom 90 percent. That’s where most of the benefit to an increase in stock values goes.
And as Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote for The Washington Post, minorities aren't well represented at the top.
The deeper problem here is the fact that wealth concentration is even more skewed toward the rich than income concentration. The median net worth (income + assets including homeownership – debt) of white households was about $117,000 in 2013. For African American households, the comparable figure is just under $2,000. In other words, black net worth is less than 2 percent that of white net worth.
In addition to the fact that people of color aren't benefiting from the market Trump praises as much as he may imply, critics say that minority business owners are in jeopardy of not receiving the resources designed for their prosperity.
Trump didn't provide many details on what he plans to do to help more minorities access government resources designed to help small businesses flourish. The Congressional Black Caucus, which has spent the past week hitting the Trump administration on its treatment of women and black Americans, dismissed the speech as a photo opp.
At the event, Trump revisited one of his main campaign promises to black voters.
“I talked a lot about the inner cities on the campaign trail,” he said. “There's a lot of potential in the inner cities.”
However, not all minorities live in urban areas. Not all black people live in city centers.
According to the most recent American Community Survey, less than 4 in 10 — 36 percent — live in cities. Nearly 40 percent live in the suburbs and 15 percent live in small metropolitan areas. And 10 percent of black Americans live in rural communities.
Trump notoriously challenged black Americans to give him a chance during the campaign, suggesting that they had nothing to lose by doing so. Trump succeeded with white, working-class voters by seeming to understand the root of their economic anxieties. He didn't seem to grasp the same economic concerns among his voters of color, and that hasn't changed as president.