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Examining the Black-White Wealth Gap

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Examining the Black-White Wealth Gap

Brookings Institution,

5 min read
3 take-aways
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What's inside?

Wealth gaps between white and black Americans are large and consistent over time and circumstances.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Overview
  • Background


Policy experts Kriston McIntosh, Emily Moss, Ryan Nunn and Jay Shambaugh illustrate how the wealth gap between white and black Americans persists. Their research shows that the intergenerational transfer of wealth carries the greatest weight in explaining the inequity, and they cite potential remedies through reforms to the tax code and changes in public resources. Readers seeking a broad overview of the economic impacts of systemic racism will find this a worthwhile guide. 


Wealth disparities between white and black Americans have persisted over time.

Black Americans have encountered formidable challenges to accumulating wealth ever since the founding of the United States. More than two and one-half centuries of enslavement gave way to successive forms of institutionalized discrimination designed to limit African Americans’ economic prosperity.

Some examples are the legislative mishandling of the Freedman’s Savings Bank, which financially devastated depositors in 1874; the 1921 carnage in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street; the 20th-century...

About the Authors

Kriston McIntosh and Emily Moss are Hamilton Project executives at the Brookings Institution, where Jay Shambaugh is a senior fellow. Ryan Nunn is an assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

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