As we all know, racial disparities continue to persist in this nation. In education, health care, the criminal justice system, and economic opportunities, persistent gaps challenge our nation’s promise to extend opportunity to all. The COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans during the summer of 2020 heightened awareness about disparities related to health and the criminal justice system. The pandemic has also further brought to light persistent economic disparities. For instance:
- According to the 2019 United States Census Bureau report Gaps in the Wealth of Americans by Household, “non-Hispanic whites had a median household wealth of $139,300, compared with $12,780 for black householders”.
- There are over 2.6 million black-owned businesses, the fastest growing sector for new business formation, and yet, many lack capital and incubator support.
- Economic opportunity varies widely by location across the nation. Children who move to economically advanced neighborhoods by age 13 are more likely to attend college and earn higher wages.
- In the past 15 years, black homeownership rates regressed to 1960’s levels (40%) back when private race-based discrimination was legal.
- The lack of affordable, local childcare is a significant barrier to work. Only 21% of eligible black children are benefitting from child care development block grants.
This collection of economic issues—safety net and those related to building wealth–gained the attention of both the Biden and Trump campaigns. African American business leaders like Robert Smith, Melody Hobson, and the leadership of the Black Economic Alliance raised these issues with both campaigns, and also in the Congress around debate on the COVID-19 stimulus bills. In fact, they have advocated for expanding the use of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions to get aid to minority businesses, especially those harmed during the pandemic.
With respect to the Biden and Trump campaigns, a couple things are worth noting. In his plan for empowering Black America, now President-elect Biden has proposed closing the racial economic gaps by addressing home ownership, wealth building, and support for minority businesses. That plan goes beyond what has more often been the traditional emphasis of economic proposals put forth by political candidates when it comes to their “African American” platforms. President Trump, with the very public and controversial collaboration with Ice Cube, put forth his “Platinum Plan” for Black America which addresses home ownership, opportunity zones, and school choice.
As we look ahead, the new administration will certainly be drawn to addressing lingering, and in some cases widening, race-based economic disparities.