What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap


What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap


This is an important read for anyone who wants to get involved in anti-black systemic racism reform. Meticulously researched and footnoted with data. Ten myths busted and the solutions made crystal clear for the reform of structural racism in the USA.

The report is 67 pages long.


In this report "address ten commonly held myths about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that a number of ideas frequently touted as “solutions” will not make headway in reducing black-white wealth disparities. These conventional ideas include greater educational attainment, harder work, better financial decisions, and other changes in habits and practices on the part of blacks. While these steps are not necessarily undesirable, they are wholly inadequate to bridge the racial chasm in wealth.

These myths support a point of view that identifies dysfunctional black behaviors as the basic cause of persistent racial inequality, including the black-white wealth disparity, in the United States. We systematically demonstrate here that a narrative that places the onus of the racial wealth gap on black defectiveness is false in all of its permutations.

We challenge the conventional set of claims that are made about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that the cause of the gap must be found in the structural characteristics of the American economy, heavily infused at every point with both an inheritance of racism and the ongoing authority of white supremacy.

Blacks cannot close the racial wealth gap by changing their individual behavior –i.e. by assuming more “personal responsibility” or acquiring the portfolio management insights associated with “financially literacy” – if the structural sources of racial inequality remain unchanged.There are no actions that black Americans can take unilaterally that will have much of an effect on reducing the racial wealth gap. For the gap to be closed, America must undergo a vast social transformation produced by the adoption of bold national policies, policies that will forge a way forward by addressing, finally, the long-standingconsequences of slavery, the Jim Crow years that followed, and ongoing racism and discrimination that exist in our society today.

Our report indicates that closing the racial wealth gap requires an accurate assessment of the causes of the disparity and imaginative action to produce systemic reform and lasting change.

Addressing racial wealth inequality will require a major redistributive effort or another major public policy intervention to build black American wealth. This could take the form of a direct race-specific initiative like a dramatic reparations program tied to compensation for the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, and/or an initiative that addresses the perniciousness of wealth inequality for the entire American population, which could disproportionately benefit black Americans due to their exceptionally low levels of wealth. Indeed, the two strategies -- reparations for America’s record of racial injustice or the provision of the equivalent of a substantial trust fund for every wealth poor American—need not be mutually exclusive.


Racial Justice


William Darity Jr.
Darrick Hamilton
Mark Paul
Alan Aja
Anne Price
Antonio Moore
Caterina Chiopris Samuel


Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity | Insight Center for Community Economic Development | April 2018


April 2018

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William Darity Jr. et al., “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” Anti-Racism Digital Library, accessed December 5, 2021, https://sacred.omeka.net/items/show/327.