Closing the Wealth Gap - Black Enterprise

Closing the Wealth Gap

wealth-gap1Even before the financial crisis hit Wall Street, the net worth of the average American family was spiraling downward over the past six years. If that’s not bad enough, the gap between the wealth of white Americans and African Americans not only remains wide, it has grown.

For every dollar of wealth held by the typical white family in 2007, a black family has only one dime, compared with 12 cents in 2004, according to recent data released by the Federal Reserve Board. That reflects a 20% difference. “That is actually quite a lot,” says Meizhui Lui, director of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, based in Oakland, California.

Hispanics now have 12 cents for each dollar of wealth owned by whites.

Every three years, the Fed conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances, which looks at the assets and liabilities of U.S. households. The latest findings reflect that the fight embarked by Black Enterprise to close the wealth gap through financial literacy still continues. Black Enterprise’s signature money management program, the decade-old Black Wealth Initiative (recently revamped as Wealth for Life), has been used to promote multigenerational wealth building among African Americans.

“We developed the Black Wealth Initiative as a comprehensive program to put some of our readers on the right track through the development of ten basic financial principles, wealth-building seminars, and our Financial Fitness Contest,” says Derek T. Dingle, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of Black Enterprise magazine. “To date, we have selected 100 winners and given $200,000 in assistance.” Four years ago, the magazine created the “Own Your First Home” contest, which has provided each winner $10,000 toward a down payment on a home.

Dingle says that wealth building is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. For this reason, Wealth for Life is an expansion of the magazine’s original mission. “We thought it was important to improve our most important vehicle so we would not let the current financial crisis derail our readers’ financial goals as well as well their efforts to build multigenerational wealth.”

Wealth for Life is a vehicle that helps people recognize how to attain and maintain wealth, especially through homeownership, says John W. Simons, Black Enterprise’s senior personal finance editor. Other action plans or principles address managing credit, debt, and tax obligations as well as investing for retirement.
In terms of this most recent widening of wealth among the races, a few things are going on, Lui says. One is the decline in manufacturing and auto industry jobs. Another is credit scoring and access to credit. A third is the subprime mortgage and housing crisis.

“Minority home buyers were more likely to be steered into high-interest loans, which essentially cheated people out of their wealth. So, “if you had savings that you put it into buying a home and now that home is in foreclosure, you are back to square one,” Lui says.