Study: White Single-parent Families Have Twice as Much Wealth as Black, Latino 2-parent Families

By Breanna Edwards,

The existence of the racial wealth gap is not news. It has been well-studied and documented for decades, and it is accepted as fact that white families build and accumulate wealth more quickly than black and brown families.

A study released this week by think tank Demos offered more perspective on how deep the disparity goes, concluding that single-parent white families actually have more wealth than two-parent Latino and black families.

Authors of the study, which looked at data from 2013, found that median two-parent black and Latino families had $16,000 and $18,800 in wealth respectively. However, the median single-parent white family had some $35,800 in wealth, while two-parent white families had a whopping $161,300 in wealth.

Single-parent black and Latino families had $5,200 and $5,400 in wealth respectively.

“Despite the financial benefits of marriage and partnership, including the opportunity to share expenses, provide child care within the family, or have two adult earners, the median white single parent is $19,800 wealthier than the median black couple with children, and $17,000 wealthier than the median Latino couple with children,” the authors of the study noted. “It’s clear that raising children with two parents is not enough to overcome the racial wealth gap—or even to pull families out of poverty. In 2014, black children with married parents were 3 times more likely to be living in poverty than white children with married parents, while Latino children with married parents were 4 times more likely to be living in poverty than their white counterparts.”

The study also references Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s controversial 1965 report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” in which he attributed racial inequality, poverty and crime in the black community to family structure, particularly families headed by single mothers. Decades of study have refuted the claim that family structure can be used to explain the racial wealth gap, a point that Demos reiterates.

“Family structure does not drive racial inequity, and racial inequity persists regardless of family structure,” authors added. “The benefits of intergenerational wealth transfers and other aspects of white privilege … benefit white single mothers, enabling them to build significantly more wealth than married parents of color.”

The study also pointed out that attending college does not necessarily close the racial wealth gap. The median white high school dropout had $18,800 in wealth, while median black and Latino adults who had graduated from high school and attended at least some college had $11,100 and $20,500 in wealth respectively.

Working full time and spending less money also does little to close the wage gap, the study showed.


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