The racial wealth divide hurts the entire middle class

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad Chief of Race, Wealth, and Community, National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Americans are more aware than ever that America has a race problem — and, more specifically, a racial wealth divide problem. As researchers from the Institute for Policy Studies and I found earlier this year, median white families are 41 times wealthier than median Black families in the United States.

As our country becomes more diverse, this shocking racial wealth divide is no longer a challenge for disenfranchised minorities alone. It’s a threat to the entire American middle class.

Let me show you how.

Since the early 1980s, median wealth among Black and Latino families has been stuck at less than $10,000, while median white wealth has grown to $140,000. Yet in spite of this growing white wealth, this huge divide means that national median wealth has actually declined.

The racial wealth divide, in short, is weakening our country as a whole.

Contributing to this divide is ongoing racial inequality in the two largest assets in most Americans’ portfolios: business ownership and homeownership.

For the last 40 years, Black and Latino homeownership rates have stayed below 50 percent, while white homeownership has remained steady at about 70 percent.

And although 13 percent of the U.S. population is Black, only 2 percent of U.S. businesses employing more than one person are Black-owned. Hispanics are 17 percent of the population but own just 6 percent of these businesses.

How do we fix this? By making smart investments.

The white middle class was built by major investments promoting education and homeownership, among other things, after World War II. But African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans were almost entirely left out of these programs. Now these groups deserve significant investments of their own.

There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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