Return to Being Black, Living in the Red: a race gap in wealth that goes beyond social origins

Demography. 2013 Aug;50(4):1177-95. doi: 10.1007/s13524-012-0190-0.

Abstract

In the United States, racial disparities in wealth are vast, yet their causes are only partially understood. In Being Black, Living in the Red, Conley (1999) argued that the sociodemographic traits of young blacks and their parents, particularly parental wealth, wholly explain their wealth disadvantage. Using data from the 1980-2009 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I show that this conclusion hinges on the specific sample considered and the treatment of debtors in the sample. I further document that prior research has paid insufficient attention to the possibility of variation in the association between wealth and race at different points of the net worth distribution. Among wealth holders, blacks remain significantly disadvantaged in assets compared with otherwise similar whites. Among debtors, however, young whites hold more debt than otherwise similar blacks. The results suggest that, among young adults, debt may reflect increased access to credit, not simply the absence of assets. The asset disadvantage for black net wealth holders also indicates that research and policy attention should not be focused only on young blacks "living in the red."

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States