NYT Op-ed Writer Asserts That White-Black Wealth Gap Has Increased in Past Two Decades (Nope, Just the Past 5 Available Years)

In a New York Times op-ed which has been receiving deserved criticism from other quarters concerning other matters (e.g., here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates ("The Good, Racist People") repeated one of those establishment press-induced "everybody knows" mantras which doesn't stand up to scrutiny after considering the available evidence: "New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years." In Coates's fevered mind, it's largely due to racism.

In national context, the white-black wealth gap in the two decades since 1993 is not yet known, but in 2005, the 15th of the past 20 years for which information is available (1991-2010), it stayed the same. The multiple only went up significantly when the housing bubble burst and the recession took hold.


Note that the table below, developed from available Census Bureau information, is mostly expressed in current dollars. Looking at white net worth as a multiple of black net worth, we see that while there were fluctuations in between, the gap expressed in those terms was about the same in 2005 as it was in 1991 and 1993:

WhiteVsBlackNetWorth1991to2010

Since roughly 2001, the Census Bureau has had a category for "White Non-Hispanics" which shows greater net worth than that seen above. But since twenty years of information is not available, there is now way to infer what those changes have been.

What the data going back to the early 1990s show is that the wealth gap expressed as a white vs. black multiple has gone down when the economy has prospered and increased when it hasn't.

It's also worth observing, as seen above, that there has been a serious drop in real net worth all the way around since 2005. In a truly remarkable coincidence (/sarc), Democrats took over Congress in January 2007 and the White House in 2009, largely based on expressed desires for more "fairness."

In reality, all we've seen is more non-discriminating misery. Unfortunately, Mr. Coates doesn't understand that. I would think that decades of biased press reporting about supposedly relentlessly advancing inequality has been a major deceiving influence.

And no, Mr. Coates, it's not redlining, and it's not blockbusting -- but government-engineered "urban renewal" definitely deserves a share of the blame.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.