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NPR: Why The Racial Wealth Gap Is So Hard To Close

NPR, June 14, 2022, Why The Racial Wealth Gap Is So Hard To Close

However, starting in the 1980s, the racial wealth gap stopped closing and began widening. In the economists’ dream simulation, convergence would have continued. One important reason for this reversal is Black Americans stopped making progress in catching up to the incomes of white Americans. Stuck with lower incomes, they’ve trailed behind in their ability to save and invest.

If America really wanted a policy to completely close the racial wealth gap sooner rather than later, Derenoncourt says, the only thing that would do it anytime soon is some sort of big wealth redistribution. Something akin to but even bigger than General Sherman’s order to give Black Americans 40 acres and a mule.

While it remains politically unpopular, there’s been a growing intellectual movementin recent years to provide Black Americans reparations. The scholars William Darity Jr. and A. Kristin Mullen put the price tag of a reparations program to fully close the racial wealth gap at around ten to twelve trillion dollars. It’s a jaw-dropping amount. But one way of understanding it is as a kind of debt, a debt that America has spent centuries failing to pay off.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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