Sunday, July 30, 2017

Why Black Families Struggle to Build Wealth


theatlantic | There’s little disagreement about the fact that economic inequality is problematic. But arguments persist over its origins, solutions, and which economic gaps are ultimately the most pernicious.

In his new book, Toxic Inequality: How America's Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future, Tom Shapiro, a professor of law and sociology at Brandeis University, lays out how government policy and systemic racism has created vast gaps in wealth between white and black Americans. Shapiro and his colleagues followed 187 families from Boston, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Half of the families were black and half white. They interviewed them in 1998 and then again in 2010, to see what had changed: how were their kids faring, how had they weathered the recession—were they any better off in 2010 than they had been in 1998?

I spoke with Shapiro about his new book, how policy impacts racial wealth, and what he makes of current conversations about race and economic pain.

The interview below has been lightly edited for clarity.