Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Median Wealth for Single Black women: $100

You read that right. According to a new report that studied wealth among different groups of women in the US, median wealth for a single, black woman in the US looks like this.

The report came from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, a national nonprofit group focused on eliminating the persistent race-wealth gap in the US.

On some level, the study's finding about single sisters isn't that surprising. First, many African-Americans were raised in households where there was little to no legacy wealth, or in other words, many of us didn't inherit much of anything (or anything at all) from previous generations. Combine that with the fact that women still on average have lower incomes than men, that married people on average have healthier financial prospects than singles (two-income households still make a difference) and that black folks on average have smaller incomes and own fewer assets than whites, and the disparity starts to stack up quickly for black women.

But can it really be THAT low? $100? One thing to keep in mind is that this is a median number, meaning half of the single black women will fall above that amount and half will fall below. It's also taking a look at wealth, not income, meaning it factors in the sum of all the assets a person owns (house, checking and savings accounts, 401(k) accounts, other investments) vs. what they owe (student loans, credit card debt, mortgages, car loans). So it's certainly the case that many single black women have net worth far higher than $5, and that many of them who have high incomes could have relatively paltry net worth, as income isn't a factor in calculating net worth.

No matter the reasons, the study deserves discussion. What's this mean for the prospects of children being raised by single, black mothers (I was one myself)? If marriage helps improve economic standing, what are the prospects of getting married for someone who has so little wealth to begin with? What about all the recent talk about women becoming breadwinners, about black women leaving black men behind in career and finance? What can be done about it?

I'm interested in hearing all your thoughts in the comments section, on TwitterFormspring. I'll likely be devoting a lot of time next week to this topic.

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