- Pub. Date: December 1996
- Publisher:Taylor & Francis, Inc.
Textbook Paperback, 242pp
Black Wealth/White Wealth demonstrates how an analysis of private wealth uncovers a revealing story about race in America. An examination of how assets are created, expanded and preserved reveals a deep economic divide between blacks and whites. Charting the changing structure of inequality over many generations, the authors examine how and why many blacks have had difficulty accumulating wealth and opportunities for a better life. In combining quantitative data from over 12,000 households and interviews with a range of black and white families, the racial face of wealth in America is measured and conceptualized.
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.
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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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.