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Parents Wealth Matters More than Parents Income or Education

June 30, 2020


As this Axios article indicates, one of the hugest obstacles upwardly mobile Black families face is their lack of wealth compared to their White counterparts and wealth, unlike education or high income, often takes generations to accumulate. My grandparents, for example, came of age at the turn of the 20th century and were able to acquire homes in “good neighborhoods” and, because of their education, able to obtain jobs that compensated them well. That set the stage for the accumulation of modest but solid wealth for my parents generation and for mine as well. Blacks who came of age in the early Twentieth Century, though, did not have the same educational and work opportunity and, consequently could not hope to acquire a decent home or get a good job. Consequently they were closed off from accumulating wealth that they could pass to younger generations.

The most interesting finding reported in this column, though, was the one that Black families stretch themselves more than their White counterparts when it comes to supporting their children’s education. But because they lack the wealth of Whites their absolute contribution is less! This absolute difference is conflated with a difference in ambition for their children which is clearly NOT the case.

All of this makes the case for reparations strong since the ultimate roots of this wealth disparity can be traced to the Jim Crow era. Food for thought as we engage in this debate.

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