By Scott Huler

November 25, 2021

It’s been a while since the Great Recession, when millions of people lost jobs, homes, their savings, between late 2007 and mid 2009. Nobody has called the last decade the Great Recovery, but many people have managed to rebuild their wealth portfolios. Though not everyone.

William Darity Jr., Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of public policy, African and African American studies, and economics as well as the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, puts it simply. If you’re Black, he says, economically “things go worse.” What’s more, while almost all groups showed at least some recovery of wealth in the decade since the recession ended, Black and Latinx families in the professional segment of the labor force lost wealth and are still behind where they were. Black families started out with less wealth, and then during the Great Recession, Black families lost more wealth than any other group, collectively losing 48 percent of their wealth, while white families lost 26 percent. Latinx families lost 44 percent.

The evidence is in economic data. One important point: In their research, Darity and his coauthor, Fenaba Addo, faculty affiliate of the Cook Center and associate professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, are talking wealth here, not income.

“There’s a disconnect between employment and accumulation of wealth,” Darity says. “The primary factor that determines how wealthy a household will be is their capacity to obtain resources from previous generations. It’s not primarily a result of you having a job and generating income.”