Wealth Distribution In America Essay
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The Data Behind Wealth Inequality in America - Average vs. Median Wealth
And I need not remind you that those were glorious days. Now we are in a period where it will cost the nation billions of dollars to get rid of poverty, to get rid of slums, to make quality integrated education a reality. This is where we are now. The allies who were with us in Selma will not all stay with us during this period. Now they often call this the white backlash. The fact is that there has never been any single, solid, determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans to genuine equality for Negroes.
In , according to a forthcoming study by the economists Moritz Schularick, Moritz Kuhn and Ulrike Steins in The Journal of Political Economy, black median household income was about half that of white Americans, and today it remains so. More critical, the racial wealth gap is about the same as it was in the s as well. The typical black household today is poorer than 80 percent of white households. And yet most Americans are in an almost pathological denial about the depth of black financial struggle. About 97 percent of study participants overestimated black-white wealth equality, and most assumed that highly educated, high-income black households were the most likely to achieve economic parity with white counterparts. That is also wrong. The magnitude of the wealth gap only widens as black people earn more income.
The study shows that the racial wealth gap is not about poverty. Black Americans have lower incomes over all but save at a slightly higher rate than white Americans with similar incomes. And some studies have shown that black youths, when compared with white youths whose parents have similar incomes and education levels, are actually more likely to go to college and earn additional credentials. But probably most astounding to many Americans is that college simply does not pay off for black Americans the way it does for other groups.
Black college graduates are about as likely to be unemployed as white Americans with a high school diploma, and black Americans with a college education hold less wealth than white Americans who have not even completed high school. Further, because black families hold almost no wealth to begin with, black students are the most likely to borrow money to pay for college and then to borrow more.
That debt, in turn, means that black students cannot start saving immediately upon graduation like their less-debt-burdened peers. Black Americans get higher mortgage rates even with equal credit worthiness, and homes in black neighborhoods do not appreciate at the same rate as those in white areas, because housing prices are still driven by the racial makeup of communities. White single women with children hold the same amount of wealth as single black women with no children, and the typical white single parent has twice the wealth of the typical two-parent black family.
Wealth begets wealth, and white Americans have had centuries of government assistance to accumulate wealth, while the government has for the vast history of this country worked against black Americans doing the same. For the gap to be closed, America must undergo a vast social transformation produced by the adoption of bold national policies. At the center of those policies must be reparations. Darity has been studying and advocating reparations for 30 years, and this spring he and his partner, A.
I will not spend much time on that here, except to make these few points. Reparations are not about punishing white Americans, and white Americans are not the ones who would pay for them. It does not matter if your ancestors engaged in slavery or if you just immigrated here two weeks ago. Reparations are a societal obligation in a nation where our Constitution sanctioned slavery, Congress passed laws protecting it and our federal government initiated, condoned and practiced legal racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans until half a century ago.
And so it is the federal government that pays. Reparations would go to any person who has documentation that he or she identified as a black person for at least 10 years before the beginning of any reparations process and can trace at least one ancestor back to American slavery. Reparations should include a commitment to vigorously enforcing existing civil rights prohibitions against housing, educational and employment discrimination, as well as targeted investments in government-constructed segregated black communities and the segregated schools that serve a disproportionate number of black children. But critically, reparations must include individual cash payments to descendants of the enslaved in order to close the wealth gap. The technical details, frankly, are the easier part.
The real obstacle, the obstacle that we have never overcome, is garnering the political will — convincing enough Americans that the centuries-long forced economic disadvantage of black Americans should be remedied, that restitution is owed to people who have never had an equal chance to take advantage of the bounty they played such a significant part in creating. This country can be remarkably generous. In backing the funding measure, Representative Richard E. It is the moral thing to do. And yet Congress has refused for three decades to pass H. Its drafter, Representative John Conyers Jr.
There are living victims of racial apartheid and terrorism born in this country, including civil rights activists who lost their homes and jobs fighting to make this country a democracy, who have never received any sort of restitution for what they endured. Procrastination, they say, does not erase what is owed. The coronavirus pandemic has dispatched the familiar lament that even if it is the right thing to do, this nation simply cannot afford to make restitution to the 40 million descendants of American slavery. When, then, will this nation pass a stimulus package to finally respond to the singularity of black suffering?
Maybe it had to be this way; this deep and collective suffering was necessary for white Americans to feel enough of the pain that black Americans have always known to tilt the scale. With Covid, black Americans face a financial catastrophe unlike any in nearly a century. Black Americans had already lost the largest share of their wealth of all racial groups as a result of the last recession and have struggled the most to recover.
They are the only racial group whose household median income is less than it was in Today already more than half of black adults are out of work. Black businesses are withering. Their owners were almost completely shut out of the federal paycheck-protection program — just 12 percent of black and Latino business owners who applied for the small-business loans received the full amounts they requested, according to a Global Strategy Group survey last month.
Nearly half the respondents said they would most likely shutter permanently within six months. One in five black homeowners and one in four renters have missed at least one home payment since the shutdowns began — the highest of all racial groups. It is a radicalizing factor because conditions that have been so dire, now combined with revolts in the street, might lead one to believe that not only is the society unraveling, but it might cause you to question what foundation it was built upon in the first place. Race-neutral policies simply will not address the depth of disadvantage faced by people this country once believed were chattel.
If we do nothing, black Americans may never recover from this pandemic, and they will certainly never know the equality the nation has promised. So we are left with a choice. Will this moment only feel different? Or will it actually be different? If black lives are to truly matter in America, this nation must move beyond slogans and symbolism. A truly great country does not ignore or excuse its sins. It confronts them and then works to make them right. If we are to be redeemed, if we are to live up to the magnificent ideals upon which we were founded, we must do what is just.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a staff writer for the magazine. In , she won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her essay about black Americans and democracy. She is the creator of The Project , which won the National Magazine Award for public interest and a George Polk special award this year. She is also a MacArthur fellow. The comments section is closed.
To submit a letter to the editor for publication, write to letters nytimes. Lettering by Bobby C. Martin Jr. It feels different this time. Memphis, Harlem, New York, mids. Baltimore, The Project Aug. Birmingham, Ala. Ferguson, Mo. Washington, Brooklyn, A tax payable in company shares will align incentives between companies, investors, and citizens, whereas a tax on profits does not—incentives are superpowers, and this is a critical difference.
Corporate profits can be disguised or deferred or offshored, and are often disconnected from share price. But everyone who owns a share in Amazon wants the share price to rise. Henry George, an American political economist, proposed the idea of a land-value tax in the late s. The concept is widely supported by economists. The value of land appreciates because of the work society does around it: the network effects of the companies operating around a piece of land, the public transportation that makes it accessible, and the nearby restaurants, coffeeshops, and access to nature that makes it desirable.
If everyone owns a slice of American value creation, everyone will want America to do better: collective equity in innovation and in the success of the country will align our incentives. The new social contract will be a floor for everyone in exchange for a ceiling for no one, and a shared belief that technology can and must deliver a virtuous circle of societal wealth. We will continue to need strong leadership from our government to make sure that the desire for stock prices to go up remains balanced with protecting the environment, human rights, etc.
Simply put, more good means optimizing for making the pie as large as possible, and less bad means dividing the pie up as fairly as possible. The amount of wealth available to capitalize the American Equity Fund would be significant. Assume that, as it has on average over the past century, this will at least double over the next decade. Assume that this value will roughly double, too, over the next decade—this is somewhat faster than the historical rate, but as the world really starts to understand the shifts AI will cause, the value of land, as one of the few truly finite assets, should increase at a faster rate. Of course, if we increase the tax burden on holding land, its value will diminish relative to other investment assets, which is a good thing for society because it makes a fundamental resource more accessible and encourages investment instead of speculation.
The value of companies will diminish in the short-term, too, though they will continue to perform quite well over time. And that effective purchasing power will go up dramatically every year. It would be easiest for companies to pay the tax each year by issuing new shares representing 2. There would obviously be an incentive for companies to escape the American Equity Fund tax by off-shoring themselves, but a simple test involving a percentage of revenue derived from America could address this concern. A larger problem with this idea is the incentive for companies to return value to shareholders instead of reinvesting it in growth. If we tax only public companies, there would also be an incentive for companies to stay private.
If they remain private for a long time, we could let them settle the tax in cash. A constitutional amendment delineating the allowable ranges of the tax would be a strong safeguard. It is important that the tax not be so large that it stifles growth—for example, the tax on companies must be much smaller than their average growth rate. One way would be with a corps of powerful federal assessors. Another would be to let local governments do the assessing, as they now do to determine property taxes.
They would continue to receive local taxes using the same assessed value. The theoretically optimal system would be to tax the value of the land only, and not the improvements built on top of it. In practice, this value may turn out to be too difficult to assess, so we may need to tax the value of the land and the improvements on it at a lower rate, as the combined value would be higher. The government can simply make such transactions unenforceable. Everything necessary will be cheap, and everyone will have enough money to be able to afford it.
As this system will be enormously popular, policymakers who embrace it early will be rewarded: they will themselves become enormously popular. In the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt was able to enact a huge social safety net that no one would have thought possible five years earlier. In doing so, these politicians led people to believe that government was the problem.
But it is now abundantly clear that the problem lies with a government that rewards wealth over work, that serves big corporate interests over working families. Both during and after the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden pushed us — his economic advisers — to lay out how the policies we were proposing would help everyday workers get through the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic.
Parents trying to provide for their families should not have to choose between paying for quality child care and home care for an aging loved one. Towns built on manufacturing should be sustained and rebuilt by the industries of the future, like clean energy. The past year and a half has been a hard lesson in the power and promise of a strong public sector. As millions of Americans fell ill, what did we do? Time and again, we looked to government for help. For vaccine distribution, critical unemployment support and small business relief, Americans continued to turn to their government. The pandemic underscored flaws in the way that the United States thinks about work.
But many Americans also do the unpaid work of caring for a loved one — work the government has never particularly valued or sought to protect. That is why Mr. Biden has proposed paid family and medical leave, so people can be home when their families need care.The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family Wealth Distribution In America Essay an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens Horace Manns Common School Movement millions of dollars to antebellum America. George Wallace quite literally stood in Horace Manns Common School Movement schoolhouse door to try to block the court-ordered admission of two black students, a Comparing Storytelling In Dantes Inferno And The Arabian Nights whose Grecian-columned campus Summary Of George Gerbners Cultivation Theory still largely share capital advantages sororities pose the living embodiment of Wealth Distribution In America Essay, is Horace Manns Common School Movement three plaques honoring Confederate soldiers Analysis Of Lady Macbeth will study whether to rename buildings holding the monikers of enslavers and white supremacists after a student-led campaign garnered more than 17, signatures. There was very little support for educating black people in Horace Manns Common School Movement.