The Color of Money

The Color of Money

Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

Belknap Press, 2019 more...

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening


An unequal playing field explains why Black Americans have far less wealth, higher unemployment and lower rates of homeownership than white Americans do. As the United States re-examines its racial gaps, professor Mehrsa Baradaran’s bracing book explores America’s fraught history. She delves into the US government policies that discriminated against Black Americans and the reforms that promised much but delivered little. Baradaran’s scathing analysis highlights how economic inequity lies at the root of systemic racism.


Black Americans are on the wrong end of the wealth gap.

Despite decades of reforms, many Black Americans are broke. More than one-third of Black families possess no assets, and on average, they have just a fraction of the wealth of their white counterparts. The 2008 financial crisis hit Black Americans especially hard. They lack the cash cushion and intergenerational wealth that would see them through tough times.

Meanwhile, Black-owned banks, long held up as a panacea to wealth inequality, have found little success in a deeply segregated economy. Supporters of Black banks are legion: Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were among the activists to sing the praises of Black financial institutions. Even leaders such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan and Bill Clinton have espoused Black banks as a key to unleashing the economic potential of Black neighborhoods. But that vision remains a dream deferred: The handful of Black banks established over the decades have been unable to overcome a history of subjugation and segregation.

Banks that cater to Black customers...

About the Author

Mehrsa Baradaran is a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. She is also the author of How the Other Half Banks.

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Financial Institutions Can Help Break the Cycle of Racial Inequality
Racial Equity in Banking Starts with Busting the Myths
The Riches of This Land
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