Experts: Housing, education discrimination drive minority wealth gap

Dollar bills
File Photo: An uncut sheet of the Series 2001 one dollar bill notes at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The financial gap between black and Latino families and their white counterparts is growing.

In fact, a new study from the Institute of Policy Studies finds that it would take over 200 years for the wealth gap to close.

And that's only if white wealth stayed the same, which Michael Dawson says it will not.

"There's a number of factors. One is that the legacy of housing discrimination continues to accelerate the wealth gap that we've seen," Dawson, professor and director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture told MPR News host Kerri Miller in discussion Wednesday on the wealth gap.

Dawson was joined by Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe, president and founder of the Women's Institute for Science, Equity and Race, who agreed institutionalized racism plays a big role in that gap.

"I think it's very important as we're talking about what's wrong, what can we do, to be mindful that this narrative should not be about what blacks and Hispanics are doing wrong, but about the policies that have allowed whites to get ahead," Sharpe said.

The GI Bill allowed white veterans of World War II to receive loans to buy homes, but banks would often deny black veterans the same promise, Sharpe said. She also pointed to unions in the past that would not have allowed non-white workers to join.

Dawson and Sharpe also discussed how the education gap between people of color and white people continues to hinder black and Latino people's ability to succeed. The guests pointed to current and new government programs that could help reduce these gaps, if they were properly supported.

"(The programs) are often implemented in very conservative ways and they are often underfunded," Dawson said. "So if we do see small initial programs we wouldn't have the type of evidence to know whether they would work on a larger scale basis."

To hear the full conversation, click the play button above.

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