Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Series Demonstrates Why Reparations Need to be Part of the Discussion to Close the Racial Wealth Gap
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, CAP’s Race and Ethnicity Policy team is adding to their racial wealth gap work by releasing a series of products that look at the many ways in which structural racism has affected the lives of African Americans over the past 400 years.

At the heart of the series is an interactive graphic simulating what would happen over the next 40 years if five widely discussed ideas to close the gap were adopted today. The interactive focuses on forgiving student loan debt and on debt-free college; baby bonds; a national retirement savings plan; strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and ending housing discrimination.  The interactive reveals that the policies in combination reduce the racial wealth gap by 42.6 percent. But even with this reduction, white households are projected to have almost twice the wealth of Black households in 2060.

The interactive is accompanied by an essay by Danyelle Solomon, vice president of Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress, which examines the collective impact of 400 years of harm on the Black community. The essay demands bold, intentional and targeted policy solutions to address the stark racial disparities we see across American economic, social, and civic systems.  Solomon argues that closing  the racial wealth gap will require many bold ideas, including support of  H.R. 40 and exploring reparations as a possible policy intervention.

Centuries of slavery, followed by a century of Jim Crow, and decades of persistent systematic discrimination have created a country in which white Americans have 10 times the wealth of Black Americans; Black women die in childbirth at three to four times the rate of white women; 1 in 3 Black men will likely enter the criminal justice system; and 1 in 5 Black Americans have experienced some form of voter suppression,” said Solomon. “Our interactive showcases the many policy proposals, from debt-free college to strengthening housing protections, that would begin to close the gap. The interactive also demonstrates the need to do more and to be intentional about the interventions needed to  fully close this gap.  Reparations should be part of that discussion—the sheer volume of harms, inflicted over 400 years, requires us to do so.

As part of the Systematic Inequality series, CAP is also releasing three reports that look at how historical and modern-day structural racism has affected the lives of people of color in the areas of housing, economic opportunity, and democracy. They also present new original analysis of government data that highlights modern-day inequities in these areas. Among the key findings:

Systematic Inequality in Housing:

  • The Black-white housing gap is bigger today than it was in 1940.
  • College-educated Black households are less likely to own their own home than white households that never finished high school.
  • Even after controlling for education, income, marital status, geography, and age, white people are more likely to own their own their own home than similarly situated Black people.
  • A racial housing gap exists in every single state.
  • Across every age, income, and education bracket, as well as marital status and geography, white households are more likely to own their own homes that their Black, Latinx, Asian American, or Native American counterparts.

Systematic Inequality in Economic Opportunity

  • Half of African Americans report experiencing employment discrimination. Yet none of the states with the most Black residents spend more than 70 cents per capita fighting employment discrimination. By contrast, each spends more than $230 per resident on policing. In other words, the states with the most Black people spend at least 328 times more on policing than on employment discrimination.
  • In some states, such as Louisiana, more taxpayer dollars are spent on the governor’s salary than on protecting millions of residents from employment discrimination.

Systematic Inequality in Democracy

  • 9.5 million predominantly nonwhite American adults lacked full voting rights in 2016 due to a prior felony conviction or residence in a U.S. territory or the District of Columbia.
  • More citizens are disenfranchised due to prior felony convictions and residence in a U.S. territory or Washington, D.C., than the total population of eligible voters in Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, and Idaho combined.
  •  Each election year, millions of American service members, diplomats, and expatriates living abroad vote in their home states using absentee ballots. But the 3.4 million American adults living in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Island, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa continue to be denied voting rights.

These new pieces build on the Race and Ethnicity Policy Program’s previous work on structural racism including, in-depth looks at the racial wealth gaps among African American, LatinX, and AAPI communities.


Related resources: 

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at [email protected] or 202-495-3682.