The Ghetto Is Public Policy

More
Arnold Hirsch opens Making the Second Ghetto with this undated clipping from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Something is happening to lives and spirits that will never show up in the great housing shortage of the late 40s. Something is happening to the children which might not show up in our social record until the 1970s.

That quote has haunted me for the past couple of weeks, and it came back again in reading this piece on America's yawning wealth gap:

The difference in wealth between typical households in each racial group ballooned to $236,500 in 2009, up from $85,000 in 1984, according to the study, released Wednesday. By 2009, the median net worth of white families was $265,000, while blacks had only $28,500...

Income gains are also a major differentiating factor, even when whites and blacks have similar wage increases. Whites are typically able to put more of their raises towards accumulating wealth because they've already built up a cash cushion. 

Blacks are more likely to use the money to cover emergencies. Inheritances also make it easier for some families to build wealth. Among the families studied, whites were five times more likely to inherit money than blacks, and their typical inheritances were 10 times as big.

White liberals generally prefer to talk about a colorless wealth inequality haunting the country. I'm not opposed to that conversation. But it also needs to be said (loudly) that black/white inequality has, for most of American history, been our explicit public policy, and today, is our implicit public policy.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In