cover image Black Wealth/ White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality

Black Wealth/ White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality

Thomas M. Shapiro, Melvin L. Oliver, Shapiro Thomas. Routledge, $135 (242pp) ISBN 978-0-415-91375-1

Racial comparisons by income are misleading, argue these two sociologists, because the black middle class lags far behind its white counterpart in terms of assets that can expand choices and opportunities for generations to come. Their analysis provides telling insight into the causes and persistence of American racial inequality: government policies of suburbanization and redlining helped boost wealth for whites over blacks, while discrimination against blacks long kept them from developing assets through self-employment. The authors' study uncovers ``the buried fault line of the American social system,'' and they note that three times as many whites as blacks grow up in households with three months of financial reserves. Because of such intergenerational transfers of wealth, the authors make a philosophical case for racial reparations but also argue for more feasible policies, such as government-supplemented accounts to make education and home-ownership more available, as well as the modification of tax policies (mortgage deductions, capital gains) that subsidize the rich. Oliver teaches at UCLA, Shapiro at Northeastern University. Illustrations. (Oct.)