Black Wealth, White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality

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The rise of the black middle class is heralded as evidence of greater racial equality, but why do middle-class blacks possess only fifteen cents for every dollar of wealth held by middle-class whites? Why do 61% of black households have no financial assets at all - twice the rate for white households? Black Wealth / White Wealth offers a powerful portrait of racial inequality based on an analysis of private wealth. Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro analyze wealth - total assets and debts rather than income alone - to uncover deep and persistent racial inequality in America, and they show how public policies fail to redress the problem. Drawing on data from over 12,000 households and in-depth interviews with a range of black and white families, the authors chart the ways in which systematic economic barriers have discouraged many blacks and impaired their ability to accumulate wealth. These barriers - historically low wages and limited access to capital, local and state policies, the rise of the modern suburb, and the making of the urban ghetto - limit opportunities for a better life.

Taking issue with those who point to an expanding black middle class as evidence of greater racial equality, Black Wealth/White Wealth demonstrates how an analysis of wealth--total assets and debts rather than income alone--uncovers a qualitatively different story about race in America. Illustrations, charts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Racial comparisons by income are misleading, argue these two sociologists, because the black middle class lags far behind its white counterpart in terms of assets that can expand choices and opportunities for generations to come. Their analysis provides telling insight into the causes and persistence of American racial inequality: government policies of suburbanization and redlining helped boost wealth for whites over blacks, while discrimination against blacks long kept them from developing assets through self-employment. The authors' study uncovers ``the buried fault line of the American social system,'' and they note that three times as many whites as blacks grow up in households with three months of financial reserves. Because of such intergenerational transfers of wealth, the authors make a philosophical case for racial reparations but also argue for more feasible policies, such as government-supplemented accounts to make education and home-ownership more available, as well as the modification of tax policies (mortgage deductions, capital gains) that subsidize the rich. Oliver teaches at UCLA, Shapiro at Northeastern University. Illustrations. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415913751
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Melvin L. Oliver is Vice-President of the Ford Foundation's Asset Building and Community Development Program. He is on leave from UCLA where he is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy. Thomas M. Shapiro is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University. He is the author of Population Control Politics: Women, Sterilization, and Reproductive Choice.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Race, Wealth, and Equality 11
2 A Sociology of Wealth and Racial Inequality 33
3 Studying Wealth 53
4 Wealth and Inequality in America 67
5 A Story of Two Nations: Race and Wealth 91
6 The Structuring of Racial Inequality in American Life 127
7 Getting Along: Renewing America's Commitment to Racial Justice 171
Appendix A 195
Appendix B 207
Notes 211
References 225
Index 237
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