June 22, 2020 – Introduction

For months now, a deadly pandemic and deep recession have pummeled the U.S. economy. Yet even as tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs, U.S. billionaires saw their collective wealth increase by leaps and bounds. 

At the same time, the Movement for Black Lives has drawn attention not just to police brutality against Black Americans, but to systemic racism more broadly. A huge cause and consequence of that systemic injustice is the underlying racial wealth divide — the financial legacy of centuries of white supremacy.

Even before the pandemic, we found that median white families had literally dozens of times the net worth of median Black and Latino families. The pandemic is supercharging that inequality, with the skyrocketing wealth of the largely white billionaire class putting most Americans, especially people of color, further and further behind.

White supremacy is the pre-existing condition that’s made this pandemic deadlier for people of color and held back our economic recovery. We have to learn the lessons of our failed responses to the 2008 recession, and bring an intentional commitment to racial equity in the design of economic stimulus and recovery measures.

It demands a robust policy response, which we detail in this report.

Key Findings

  • The U.S. spends an estimated $729 billion a year to assist with individual wealth building, mostly on the already wealthy. For example, 90 percent of $90 billion in tax-related housing assistance goes to households with incomes over $100,000. Those earning $50,000 get roughly 1 percent.
  • In the 12 weeks between March 18 and June 11, the combined wealth of all U.S. billionaires increased by more than $637 billion, the equivalent of more than 13 percent of all Black wealth.
  • U.S. billionaires together have $3.581 trillion in wealth, more than all Latino wealth combined, which is $3.49 trillion. In other words, 640 billionaires have as much wealth as 59 million Latinos.
  • Total U.S. billionaire wealth is equal to three-quarters of all Black wealth combined, which is $4.68 trillion.
  • The top 12 U.S. billionaires have a combined wealth of $921 billion, which is equivalent to all the home equity wealth of the entire Black population, over 17 million households.
  • The top 70 U.S. billionaires together hold $1.9 trillion, the equivalent to the home equity wealth of all Black and Latino households combined.

Executive summary of critical findings and the full report here: https://ips-dc.org/white-supremacy-preexisting-condition-eight-solutions-economic-recovery-racial-wealth-divide/