Tag Archives: wealth

Women of Color and Wealth – Looking at Outliers and Outsiders [Part 5]

by Latoya Peterson

Please note, this is part five of a multi-part series on the Lifting As We Climb: Women of Color and Wealth report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Please carefully read part one and review our comment moderation policy before participating in the comments.

Over the course of the Women of Color and Wealth series one question has come up time and time again – what about Asian women? Native women?  Other, more specific breakdowns of different racial/ethnic groups?  Is there data for queer women of color?  For transgender women of color?  Sadly, the answer is no.

The report includes a separate break out discussion of Asian and Native American women, saying (all emphasis mine):

Because Asian Americans and Native Americans comprise a much smaller proportion of the U.S. population than blacks and Hispanics and because most surveys that measure wealth do not oversample these groups, our knowledge about their wealth is less robust—particularly for Native Americans.

According to 2004 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, Asian Americans have a higher median net worth than white non-Hispanic households ($144,000 and $137,200, respectively).  Much of this is due to their home equity, as the Asian population is concentrated in a few cities with very high home values. When data is adjusted for these and other factors, Asians have less wealth than whites on similar socioeconomic characteristics. In interpreting the high home equity of Asian Americans, it is also important to bear in mind that they are likely to own and occupy the home with extended family members and are more likely than whites to contribute more than half of their household income to housing costs.

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Women of Color and Wealth – Starting Points and Class Jumping [Part 3]

by Latoya Peterson

Please note, this is part three of a multi-part series on the Lifting As We Climb: Women of Color and Wealth report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Please carefully read part one and review our comment moderation policy before participating in the comments.

zero wealth chart

I’m fightin for strength, in the street grindin for cents/
I know I’m ahead of my time but I’m behind on my rent/
Askin Kanye for money just to pay on my gas bill/
He asked me for it back, nigga brush up on your math skills/
Nothin plus zip equals zero; he couldn’t relate/
That nigga ain’t been broke since “H to the Izzo”

–Rhymefest, “Devil’s Pie

For many of us who grow up lower middle class or in poverty, the issues began before we were born. Parents struggling to make ends meet rarely find that things get easier once a child arrives – in general, already strained resources are required to stretch even further. Economically devastated parents generally do not have the resources to pass on to their children – indeed, the children may be asked to help participate in taking care of the bills, or once another income is flowing, provide funds to take care of other members of the family.

Looking at the chart above, single black and latina female households are hit the hardest by these disparities – but what does it really mean when a household has zero or negative wealth? How does it impact a child’s upbringing and future? Continue reading

Women of Color and Wealth – Looking at the Wealth Gap [Part 2]

by Latoya Peterson
mercedes logo

Because so many women of color have such little wealth other than the value of a vehicle, the rest of the paper uses the definition of wealth that excludes vehicles in order to capture the economic vulnerability experienced by women of color.

Excluding vehicles, single black women have a median wealth of $100 and Hispanic women $120 respectively, while their same-race male counterparts have $7,900 and $9,730. The median wealth of single white women is $41,500. To put it another way, single black and Hispanic women have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by their male counterparts and a tiny fraction of a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by white women. With so little in reserve, half of all single black and Hispanic women could not afford to take an unpaid sick day or to even have a major appliance repaired without going into debt. The precarious financial situation of women of color is also evident when looking at those with zero or negative wealth, (negative wealth occurs when the value of one’s assets is lower than the value of their debts). Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth (see Figure 2).

Pre-retirement wealth disparities for women of color affect them drastically in their retirement years. According to federal poverty standards, poverty rates for people age 65 and over are highest for women of color. In 2007 16.7% of white women living alone were poor, but 26% of Asian women living alone, 38.5% of black women living alone, and 41.1% of Hispanic women living alone were poor. 21

What does it mean when we talk about the difference between wealth and income?  These two terms are not to be conflated.  Someone can be a high earner, but still have no wealth at all – it is as simple as spending more than you earn.  It doesn’t matter what the money is spent on – it can go up your nose, on your feet, to your landlord or thrown in mass amounts on a stage.  However, if you manage to make a million dollars a year, and you spend $1.5 million, you are not wealthy.  Not even close. Continue reading

Women of Color and Wealth – The Scope of The Problem [Part 1]

by Latoya Peterson

Yesterday, a headline in the Post-Gazette worked its way around Twitter:  Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5. Most outlets qualified the link by calling it “shocking” or mentioning the five dollar figure was not a typo.

I called up a fellow young black professional friend of mine and told her about the findings of the study.  “Is it messed up that I’m kind of glad in a way?” she asked, “I mean, all this time I’ve been wondering why I can’t get my shit together, but it turns out I’m normal.” We both laughed at her small attempt at gallows humor around a situation many of us know a little too intimately – when it comes to our white counterparts, women of color are light years behind in wealth.

The study is a new report from The Insight Center for Community Economic Development, titled “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future.”  The report is an in-depth look at the issues in wealth accumulation particular to black women, Latinas, Asian and Native American women.  However, even as this report is one of the most comprehensive I have seen on the subject, the limited data for Asian American and Native American women means that their statistics are limited from entire sections of the report, and discussed in a subsequent section about the need for better stats.  The report’s title is should be a familiar refrain to many black women, but the author of the report, Mariko Chang, kindly includes an explanation of the origin of the phrase:

More than a century ago, the National Association for Colored Women was founded by African American women leaders in response to a vicious attack on the character of African-American women. A few decades distant from the abolition of slavery, the intensification of poverty, discrimination, and segregation impelled these women to action in defense of their race. Their motto was “Lifting as We Climb,” signaling their understanding that no individual woman of color could rise, nor did they want to rise, without the improvement of the whole race. At the top of their agenda were job training, wage equity, and child care: issues that, if addressed, would lift all women, and all people of color.

The lift as we climb refrain was implanted into some of us from birth and a lot of my earliest lessons about black empowerment focused on financial empowerment.  Yet, these adages about saving money, investing in the community, and being a conscious consumer was like propping a footstool against a fifty foot high sheer rock wall.  Continue reading

Meet the Newbos

by Guest Contributor Jesse Singal, originally published at CampusProgress.org

Newbos: The Rise of America’s New Black Overclass, a one-hour CNBC documentary examining megarich black entrepreneurs which premiered last night, comes at an odd time. Hosted by Lee Hawkins of The Wall Street Journal (who is also a CNBC contributor), the show emphasizes the tremendous successes a select group of African-Americans have had in the sports and entertainment industries, but does so during a period in which African-Americans as a whole—along with just about every other demographic—are suffering immensely as a result of the United States’ collapsing economy. Why, then, focus an hour on stories of stratospheric accomplishment, some of which have as much to do with freakish distributions of natural talent as business savvy? Don’t we have more important things to learn about race and wealth, especially given that African-Americans were disproportionately affected by the subprime mortgage crisis?

Newbos could have overcome these troublesome questions if it had explained something novel about how race and wealth interact in America, or if it had advanced some bold new argument about what it means to be rich and African-American. Unfortunately, it does neither. In many regards, Newbos instead follows in the footsteps of the chronically ill and chronically myopic economic reporting that failed to predict the current collapse (a lot of which emanated from, ahem, CNBC). This reporting—which often looked more like cheerleading—was fixated on success stories, treated “millionaires created” as one of the only meaningful economic metrics, and decided not to bother tackling that whole pesky inequality thing. Newbos, despite the occasional noteworthy nugget, makes all the same blunders: It celebrates black entrepreneurship and focuses on some of the obstacles that very successful African-Americans must overcome, but refuses to face or address any of the real issues related to wealth distribution and race. Continue reading