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April 28, 2014 5:08 PM The Wealth Gap Gets Wider

By Ed Kilgore

A major new study on the racial/ethnic “wealth gap” has a rather pointed title: Beyond Broke. Since it updates what happened during and after the financial and housing meltdowns and the Great Recession, the title is apt as well as pointed.

Published by the Closing the Wealth Gap Initiative, a project of Center For Global Policy Solutions in collaboration with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Beyond Broke (which will be formally published tomorrow, when it can be found here) reports some startling data:

* As of 20100, the median net worth of white Americans ($111,740) was over 15 times that of African-Americans ($7,113) and over 13 times that of Latinos ($8,113).

* In terms of median liquid wealth (assets that can be turned quickly into cash), the disparities are even larger, with African-Americans holding $200, and Latinos $300, as compared to $23,000 for whites and $19,500 for Asian-Americans.

* Between 2005 and 2011, median home equity declined by 32% for whites, 36% for African-Americans, 46% for Asian-Americans, and 56% for Latinos.

* Homeownership rates continue to vary significantly by race and ethnic group, with 68% of whites owning homes, as compared to 59% of Asian-Americans, 43% of Latinos, and 42% of African-Americans.

Read the whole report for much more on the “wealth gap.”

Its recommendations are straightforward:

* Make work pay and pay workers fairly

* Make sure mortgage relief programs are transparent (i.e., detailed statistics collected) and fair (targetting assistance to hardest-hit populations).

* Allow Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to provide principal reduction and loan modifications for distressed homeowners.

* Create a “baby bond” program to give every American accumulating assets.

* Expand Social Security to provide adequate retirement income

* Increase the EITC for childless workers.

* Expand access to low- and no-cost financial services.

Even as it is important to distinguish median from average income levels among different portions of the population, focusing on median wealth as well as median income is essential if we want to understand the existence and persistence of inequality. Blaming Americans for their own inability to survive economic downturns like the Great Recession is simply immoral, and failing to use the resources available to deal with racial and ethnic disparities is simply un-American.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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